The launching of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) about five years ago was greeted with a great deal of excitement and expectant enthusiasm among the masses of our people.
For once the combined opposition forces provided a strong and viable alternative to Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) misrule. These raised hopes and expectations seemed to be confirmed by the UDC’s impressive electoral performance during the 2014 elections.
Today however there seems to be increasing doubt, disillusionment and disappointment among sections of the public about the UDC’s political viability and electoral prospects on account of the crisis which has engulfed one of the UDC’s constituent parties, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the allegedly inept and incompetent manner in which the UDC leadership handled the crisis. The UDC leader comrade Boko has come under heavy criticism for not having shown strong and decisive leadership in dealing with the BMD crisis. Those who put forward such a view do not state clearly what it is that comrade Boko should have done to resolve the crisis.
Such critics misconceive or do not attach much weight to the organisational character of the UDC as presently constituted. The UDC character is not a unitary party with a unified compact organisation, but a loose alliance of different parties minimally united for the purpose of coordinating their efforts towards unseating the BDP while retaining their organisational and political autonomy and independence. Within the framework of this alliance, the constituent parties are governed by their own constitutional norms and processes.
This necessarily means that whatever problem or conflict afflicts one party does not automatically immediately intrude into the whole alliance. If such a situation arises the party affected by such problem is first expected to resolve it in terms of its own constitution and internal rules and processes. Whether this is ideal or not for the UDC is not the issue, what needs to be emphatically pointed out is that this is how the relations among the UDC parties are governed on the organisational plane at present. The approach adopted by comrade Boko of affording the BMD the organisational and political space and opportunity to resolve its internal issues without any interference from the UDC was not only politically principled and correct but consistent with the spirit and letter of the UDC constitution.
There was no question at that stage of attempting to impose a solution (by the UDC leadership) on the BMD, or worse still of making any pronouncements in favour of one faction or the other, that would be politically improper, incompetent and would have rendered comrade Boko incapable of handling the issue at the time when the BMD formally resolved to refer it to the UDC leadership.
When the BMD factions after reaching a stalement, did invite the UDC to intervene the UDC leadership handled the problem with utmost fairness, political level – headedness and tact. It invited both factions to present their respective positions. After a most exacting scrupulous consideration of the facts and submissions of both parties, the UDC leadership delivered its verdict, that it was improper for the BMD Youth league to have proceeded to hold its congress in Ramotswa after the BMD National Executive Committees decision to postpone the congress, that it was politically and organisationally improper for the BMD National Executive Committee to expel Ndaba, Molotsi and others from the party for having attended the purported youth congress in Ramotswa, and that it was also improper for the Pilane faction to have proceeded to elect a new leadership at the Matshekge congress, notwithstanding the serious factional stripe within the party
The UDC leadership further recommended that the two factions must make further attempt at mediation with a view to reconciling their differences. This in our view was a fair and well balanced verdict. However, considering the sharp polarisation of forces within the BMD, it was unlikely that any reconciliation would occur. The Pilane faction had already indicated that it considers the Matshekge congress legitimate in terms of the BMD constitution and would not countenance any political proposition which tends to raises any doubt about the legitimacy of their leadership, as that in their view would occasion considerable violence to the BMD constitution.
The real reason for this apparent intransigence is that Pilane and his supporters are well aware that they constitute an infinitesimal minority within the party and stand no chance of winning any position in the event of a rerun of the party leadership elections. However, they seemed to shift from their hard-line position after UDC verdict as Pilane did write to the Ndaba faction inviting them to make proposals for a power sharing deal along the lines suggested by the UDC leadership. Pilane seems to have never received a formal response to his letter.
The Ndaba faction had already gone too far in preparing for the launching of their new party and would not risk further entangling themselves in discussions with the rival faction which in likelihood was not likely to produce any mutually acceptable solution. They seemed to have taken a firm view that their differences with the Pilane faction were irreconcilable. Hence it was altogether not surprising that they proceeded to announce the launching of their new party thus precipitating a definitive split of the BMD. There can altogether be no doubt about integrity and sincerity of Ndaba and Mmolotsi as political leaders but what is more important for the purpose of political analysis is the kind of politics they espouse and represent.
Although they have long resigned from the BDP, they have not severed the umbilical cord which links them to bourgeois liberalism. One of the fundamental traits of petty- bourgeois democrats is their inability or unwillingness to openly take critical stock of their own missteps and blunders in their formulation of strategy and tactics. The sectarian self-seeking tactics of the Pilane faction largely contributed to the BMD split, but the Ndaba faction also committed grave tactical mistakes which aggravated the factional stripe and played into the hands of the most intransigent hard-line elements within the Pilane camp. They were in error in attending the Ramotswa Youth Congress after the National Executive (which they were part of) had taken the decision to postpone the congress.
They were in error in refusing to attend the disciplinary hearing. It is thus politically insincere and unfair for them to blame the UDC leadership for failing to resolve the crisis, in respect of which they were not entirely blameless. The political responsibility for the BMD split lies entirely with both factions of the BMD. Blaming Boko or UDC leadership for it is an exercise in blatant falsification of events. To avoid further damage to its political standing and rectitude, the UDC should definitively dissociate itself from dealing with any of the BMD factions. That would then give it (the UDC) time to rebuild, reorganise and regenerate itself prior to 2019 elections.