It goes without saying that the umbrella does not inspire much confidence in the electorate especially the undecided. I have said before that the Umbrella MUST seek to beat the BCP to remain relevant or to at least survive 2014. If the Monarch Wets results are repeated elsewhere confidence in the viability of the Umbrella will continue to plummet. Yet this is exactly what must be expected. The Umbrella is HIGHLY unlikely to perform well in the by-elections and this is something they need to make peace with.
For someone who really lacks a lot of confidence in the Umbrella, I do feel that it would be unfair to judge it purely on the basis of their poor performance on by-elections. I posit that such poor result should be expected and indeed are likely to continue. It is critical to appreciate the limitations faced by the Umbrella. By-elections use the voter roll from the last election and assuming that the BMD which has the responsibility of bringing in new voters to augment the solid supporter base of the BNF is attracting new and previously disaffected voters, these are ineligible to vote and as such BMD’s contribution to the umbrella in this regard can only be gauged at the 2014 General Elections. It is true that the BMD usually claims to have hurt the BDP and as such there is expectation that this degree of damage be shown by increased vote for opposition. This has not happened especially as we know that the idea is ludicrous; the BMD’s effect on the BDP has been a mere pin prick.
This however does not mean that the BMD cannot be instrumental in luring away disenchanted BDP supporters ESPECIALLY after the BDP primaries for there will be many. As such, the BMD recruitment machine can only get into full swing when cracks begin to on the BDP and appear they will. Whether they will be able to lure enough people to the Umbrella is so short a time, will be the challenge especially in view of the fact that the BDP has the ability to appease disgruntled losers with specially elected positions and the like. In any case the point here is that the BMD could be instrumental in going after the BDP members in the run down to the elections. As things stand, BMD remains fairly useless to the Umbrella in the by-elections hence the failure to gauge their impact in the Umbrella’s by-election losing streak. The other opposition parties could easily have lost those elections on their own without the BMD.
It must also be understood that the Umbrella party has yet to be fully operational and as such there is no clear identification with it. Even with a clear MoU in place, coordinating the campaigns for the opposition collective must be a real headache for the Umbrella as effectively every party is still running its own affairs making the coordination and the pooling of resources a serious challenge. While it cannot be established at this point, explaining the Umbrella to individual party members is very likely a struggle for campaigners as the process of rolling out the Umbrella continues.
It is important to understand that despite the confidence that the leaders of the Umbrella speak with, deep down inside they know they are in for a harrowing two years and possibly beyond. The stubbornness with which they have pursued the Umbrella project should be maintained post 2014 where they are likely to perform badly.
It is however unfair to dismiss the umbrella purely on the basis of their consistently poor performance at the by elections as there are a number of challenges they have yet to overcome. The reality is that they will need to be patient. The Umbrella must only seek to beat the BCP at the 2014 elections to remain relevant afterwards anything less will be a phenomenal failure that they will be unlikely to survive. It is in this regard that the Umbrella must seek at all costs to avoid a series of humiliations. There has been talk of the BNF President challenging for the soon to be vacant Member of Parliament seat for Mahalapye West. This will be a mistake as the Umbrella will not only lose but lose badly giving BDP and most probably BCP something to beat them about the head with. Taking the scalp of the biggest proponent of the Umbrella and the Leader of the “senior” party in the Umbrella would be too big a victory for the enemies of the Umbrella. It is critical that the Umbrella appreciate challenges they are faced with and move to deal with them. The reality is, despite the criticism-some of it well deserved, it is still too early for the Umbrella to be classified a failure given some of the challenges mentioned above.