The inaugural congress of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was concluded without any nasty incident to the disappointment of prophets of doom.
It was a peaceful event. As expected, the debates were robust and at times emotionally charged. Gone go buiwa Pua Phaa ka Kgololesego.
Delegates were aware that such an opportunity comes after a long time and they made sure they maximised on it.
Let us admit that prior to the historic meeting, there was confusion about the nature of the gathering and its powers arising from disagreements within the National Executive Committee (NEC).
Titles ranged from UDC Congress, Consultative Congress to Constitutional Congress.
To some these could be mere semantics but they have serious underpinnings. Whichever title is adopted defines the extent to which decisions of delegates are binding to NEC.
The main agenda for the Congress was to adopt reports from the negotiations between UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
These included the draft constitution, constituency and ward allocations as well as policy documents.
Of all the reports there was a general consensus around policies grounded on social democracy.
Before the agenda was adopted an additional item on motions was included.
The thrust of the additional item was to debate the status of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) with a view to expel it from the UDC.
We shall come back to expand on this issue later.
In the end Congress made progress on a number of key issues. First, delegates went to the historic meeting with an NEC that wielded unlimited powers over the members.
They were not oblivious of the fact that decision making at NEC was problematic because it was constituted of an even number of members (4) with no party to break the tie in the event of a deadlock.
If we want to be brutal with the truth the UDC NEC was viewed as dysfunctional as they surrendered power to Advocate Sidney Pilane. In the eyes of most delegates Pilane had Veto power over key decisions at NEC.
Therefore the continued reliance on a dysfunctional NEC with excessive powers was untenable.
Delegates obviously went to Congress to change all this so that Congress assumes its true status of being the highest decision making body.
Congress accomplished their mission by inserting a clause to that effect in the constitution.
When it comes to constituency and ward allocations delegates felt that subsequent to BMD split and the formation of AP it was necessary to open the whole issue for further discussion.
The general view was that since the definition of incumbency under the electoral laws of Botswana refers to an individual such a definition should be adopted by UDC.
For this reason no party within UDC can claim to be incumbent in constituencies currently help by AP.
Therefore Congress directed that affected constituencies that were originally allocated to BMD must be re-visited for fresh allocation.
With respect to the issue two Vice Presidents, Congress agreed to have one Vice President to be elected at an elective congress.
The motion that was envisaged did not see the light of day on account of advice from a legal team of lawyers that it was unconstitutional.
One may want to know the reasons for considering such a drastic action against an important contracting party such as BMD.
The main reasons centre on the conduct of BMD and its leader, Advocate Pilane. BMD has a tendency of not cooperating by going against decisions of the organisation with contempt.
There are several examples to demonstrate that BMD had become a delinquent party within UDC.
When a decision was taken to hold a Congress BMD questioned it and tried to block it until the very last minute.
Subsequent to that they
Right from the beginning NEC decided that every 750 members translate into one (1) delegate as per the current UDC constitution.
Political parties were then required to submit their party registers for inspection and determination of quotas.
The BMD failed to comply. Instead they went back to the NEC where they wield VETO Power and successfully challenged the provision.
Letters that were dispatched to constituencies were withdrawn and new instructions followed.
Following the collapse of the 750 quota NEC agreed on 10 members per party per constituency to insure equality.
Since this was not provided for in the constitution the NEC used its powers to suspend the existing clause in order to vary it to bend backward for the BMD.
In order to facilitate the process of accreditation, constituency structures were instructed to meet and counter verify the lists of delegates before they were sent to the Secretariat for accreditation.
Still, the BMD did not comply. Instead they gave their members a separate instruction requesting them to send the lists to their party office instead of the UDC Secretariat that was operating from the BCP offices.
Their argument was that the BMD is an independent entity that has its own internal processes insisting that they will not submit to the UDC processes.
At the next NEC meeting the BMD brought their list of delegates and demanded accreditation whereupon the NEC directed them to return the lists to respective constituencies and get one of the parties to verify and sign for them.
Because of the BMD conduct, deadlines were postponed at least three times to accommodate them.
Even on the day of the congress, they were still struggling with verification exercise resulting in Congress starting very late and going on until six o’clock in the morning.
In the end, they brought 117 delegates while BCP was leading with 467 delegates followed by Botswana National Front (BNF) with 281 and 21 for Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).
On the day of the Congress, accredited delegates received a package that included amongst other items a UDC branded cap and t-shirt.
While delegates from BCP, BNF and BPP gladly put on the UDC colours, the BMD AGAIN DID NOT COMPLY. Instead they instructed their members to come in orange colours.
Apparently, they wanted to demonstrate to those who were in doubt that the BMD had the requisite numbers.
Unfortunately the strategy backfired since they were underrepresented.
When Secretary Generals are given tasks, the BMD refuses to neither attend nor undertake assigned tasks.
The same is true for the BMD members who are members of sub-committees constituted to prepare for major the UDC events.
The frequent Trumped-up, reckless, and provocative Facebook interventions by Advocate Pilane did not help the situation.
It is against this background that delegates lost patience with the BMD and wanted to move a motion to evict it from the UDC.
The BMD may have survived the motion this time but if they continue with their indiscipline and childish behaviour they will certainly not survive next time because we are not here to baby seat anybody.
They will be under serious spotlight from now onwards.
If the party fails to reign in their arrogant loose cannon Leader, they will sink with him.
Just because he is their Santa Claus should not give him the audacity to tarnish the UDC project and drag the BMD to extinction.
The BMD must not stretch our love for them too far.
*The author asked for his identity be protected