Politicians have started running helter-skelter in search of party tickets ahead of the 2019 general elections as the season to seek fresh mandates for both Council and Parliament is really upon us. Mmegi Staff Writer, RYDER GABATHUSE tests the readiness of the quartet coalition opposition parties of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana Congress Party and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) united under the ambit of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)
FRANCISTOWN: The quartet opposition coalition parties have vowed to usurp power from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that has not lost a single general election since 1965, albeit with dwindling popularity. The UDC is certainly buoyed by the ruling party’s below 50% popular vote recorded in the 2014 general elections. The BDP had garnered about 46.7%, the first since Independence.
The UDC hope comes in the backdrop of the opposition bloc having experienced a major setback, especially after a partner BMD, experienced a split that saw one of its factions morphing into a fully-fledged party known as the Alliance for Progressives (AP) led by NdabaGaolathe, formerly BMD president. The breakaway happened after last year’s infamous Bobonong bloody congress held at Matshekge Hill School.
The formation of the AP has affected the BMD strength as an entity in the four-party coalition.
This week, the BNF, which was supposed to have already held the primaries in the 24 constituencies officially allocated to it conceded to have missed the initial last quarter of 2017 for the internal elections.
The BNF says it will focus on the first quarter of 2018 to prepare and hold its primaries so that the party could focus on selling the candidates for the 2019 general elections as early as possible.
According to the BNF publicity secretary, Justin Hunyepa the party was ready for the primaries last year but their plans were scuppered by the abrupt break-up of the BMD.
“BMD split slowed down our plans to hold the primaries in the last quarter as there was a lot of propaganda around the matter, which we had to deal with immediately by addressing our regions and other structures,” explained Hunyepa, emphasising that the BNF leadership immediately moved into action and toured the regions of the party.
On a positive note, the BNF Elections Board is now in place and they are working around the clock to put systems into place. The BNF central committee is meeting over the weekend at Sedibeng Lodge in Gaborone to chart the way forward.
“Constituencies are ready and people have paid the requisite fees to participate in the BNF primaries. The party structures are ready and set,” Hunyepa said, adding that the party national organising secretary and secretary general will present reports to the central committee meeting on their proposals for the party primaries.
The other big and new partner to the coalition, BCP has also set plans
“Our plan is to conduct our primaries within the first quarter of this year. We expect our secretary general to make proposals for the initial work preceding the party primaries and that is, issuing a writ of the primaries and subsequent nominations of candidates,” the party vice president, Dr KesitegileGobotswang told Mmegi this week.
Next week Thursday, the BCP executive leadership will meet in Gaborone to discuss the draft plan of the secretary general in terms of the roadmap for the party primaries. The meeting will also focus on considering the report as a blueprint for its impending primaries.
On February 3, 2018 the BCP leadership will present an executive position on the conduct of its primaries to a Leadership Forum in Palapye. The party was allocated 17 constituencies by the UDC.
On the other hand, the BPP spokesperson, Venter Galetshabiwe could not hide his frustrations that the oldest party in the country is yet to set a date for its primaries.
“We are not yet ready for the primaries and we will create time in future,” Galetshabiwe declared frustratingly. He was reluctant to delve much into the reasons for his party’s slow pace in readying for 2019.
“I can’t certainly explain any further because we are yet to resolve the issue of constituency allocations, which we have been battling so hard with our UDC partners which is still under negotiations,” the BPP spokesperson said.
At the heart of the BPP frustrations is the fact that the UDC has been moving at a snail pace to resolve its appeal for more constituencies. The BPP has been allocated only four constituencies against seven that they wanted.
As for the BMD, their eyes are set on July as the possible date to hold their primaries as they are waiting for the UDC to conclude on the allocations of wards after the party was allocated 14 constituencies to contest last year. BMD secretary general, Gilbert Mangole has however, indicated that the BMD will not rest on its laurels as in the interim they will do everything possible to ready themselves for the July primaries.
“Due to financial constraints we can’t hold parliamentary primaries now and later conduct council primaries, it will be very expensive for us. Parliamentary and ward primaries will go together,” Mangole said.