Leading article: The merits of a strong opposition

Share
Related Topics

It is to be hoped that the opposition gets more seats in today's elections in Botswana than in previous years. This is not because the incumbent, President Seretse Khama, is not a good thing. He runs perhaps the most politically and economically stable country in Africa – and took over mid-term, after being vice-president, in a smooth transition of power in a country where every election since independence has been deemed free and fair. He is one of the few African leaders to have spoken out against Robert Mugabe's state-sponsored violence in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

But Botswana has a weak opposition. The ruling party, which has been in power for 43 years, won 44 of 57 seats in the last election. And President Khama looks fairly unassailable. As well as being a long-standing player in a rare African success story – Botswana is less corrupt than Italy, let alone the rest of Africa – he is the son of Botswana's founding father as well as chief of the country's largest tribe.

Yet if he is hugely popular with the rural poor the urban elite dislikes his autocratic style. They are disturbed by the military-style discipline demanded by this Sandhurst-trained former head of the national army. He has slapped a 30 per cent tax on alcohol and restricted opening hours for bars and night clubs. When he took office he immediately sacked everyone in the cabinet he felt was not wholeheartedly behind him. He pushes through directives without consulting ministers. He has set up a costly Directorate of Intelligence Services which critics fear is a potential tool for suppressing dissent; deaths in police custody have since increased, from three to eight a year.

A stronger opposition would be good for democracy. Botswana is the world's biggest diamond producer. Recession has reduced global demand for the gems, forcing its mines to their first shutdown in 40 years. The economy shrank by 20 percent in the first quarter of this year forcing Botswana deep into debt. Further contractions are predicted before things pick up in 2011. It has all brought home the importance of diversifying the economy, a task on which even Botswana's capable economic managers have dragged their feet. A firm hand is needed on the tiller, but one critiqued by a competent opposition.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn