There is a protracted battle that is raging within the opposition coalition Umbrella Democratic Change (UDC). The battlefield has shifted from the National Executive Committee (NEC) to constitutional conference, and back to NEC.
It has now escalated to the office of the Registrar of Societies (RoS). It is a war between the bus driver (Duma Boko), and the bus conductor (Sidney Pilane) as they fight for keys to get the UDC bus moving.
Boko is the president of UDC while Pilane is the leader of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), one of the contracting parties. Pilane is also the co-vice president of the UDC by default. It was a position previously held by Ndaba Gaolathe who formed a BMD splinter party called Alliance for Progressives (AP) following a bloody confrontation at Matshekge Senior Secondary School in Bobonong in 2017.
Apparently, the two men do not agree on the destination and who should be in the bus. As for Pilane, his actions points to someone who prefers to park the bus until 2019. He would rather have the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) win the 2019 general elections by landslide than have a UDC government of which he is not the president. His immediate target is Dumelang Saleshando who is the president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). However, his ultimate aim is replacing Boko as the president of UDC.
If confronted with this truth, he will deny it. Well, he has previously denied that he would challenge Gaolathe for the BMD presidency. At the time of the controversy surrounding his re-application to join BMD, he insisted that he just wanted to remain an ordinary member working for the organisation. He would later plunge the BMD into a violent confrontation ever witnessed in the politics of Botswana. In the mist of chaos, he stole the BMD using dogs and “missiles.”
Recently, the secretary general of the BMD Youth League (BMDYL) revealed that Pilane hates Saleshando with a passion and uses words like he would “cut his throat” than engage with him. The master strategist had naively believed that by agreeing to swap Francistown West for Maun West, he would have Saleshando in his pocket to fight future political battles to grab UDC from Boko. It is the strategy that he effectively used to capture Motlatsi Molapisi, the president of the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). BPP is one of the UDC contracting parties. Pilane is obsessed with power and control; he will kill for it.
Pilane is not the only one who hates Saleshando, and by extension the BCP. He represents the dark forces that wish the BCP dead. These include misguided elements within AP and their sympathisers in the labour movement, former convenors led by Lebang Mpotokwane and Moruti Cosmos Moenga, and a section of the local media houses. Their ultimate target is Boko himself. To these counter-revolutionary forces, BCP is the biggest obstacle to their wicked intentions. They feel Boko aided by Saleshando, betrayed Ndaba.
The same forces aided and facilitated the formation of AP that was stillborn. The AP aligned forces think BCP is too blinded by the fracas caused by Pilane not to see their evil intentions. Surprisingly, they thought Bobonong BCP congress will resolve to exit UDC and
They had underestimated the ideological and historic bond between the BNF and BCP.
It is against this background that the battle over UDC constitution must be understood. In the Pilane scheme of things, the recently submitted UDC constitution is yet another obstacle to his misguided and reckless ambitions.
In his previous radio interview, Pilane made submissions full of contradictions. He clearly stated that BCP is a legitimate member of the UDC, but prefers to use the old UDC constitution to stop BCP from enjoying membership rights.
The UDC and BCP mutually agreed to enter into negotiations as equal partners. Hence, the equal representation at the negotiation table where UDC and BCP teams were led by Dr Reverend Prince Dibeela and BCP Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang respectively. It is worth stating that Pilane was never a member of the Negotiating Team. He was not in the leadership of BMD either.
It is true that the old UDC constitution required future entrants to apply for membership. UDC was not oblivious of this simple fact. Empowered by the Transition Clause, NEC suspended the relevant clause to accommodate negotiation route. Pilane deliberately avoids referring to the Transition Clause because it defeats his wicked intentions.
The Transition Clause was never meant to be a permanent feature of running the affairs of the UDC. It was intended to give unlimited powers to NEC until an inaugural congress was held. Although a meeting of all the three UDC parties was held in Serowe prior to 2014, it was not an Inaugural Congress. Pilane prefers the status quo to remain. That is why he is fighting to reduce the February UDC Constitutional Congress to just a consultative Conference with no binding resolutions. Consequently, and with the support of BPP, he easily stalls progress at NEC.
For the BNF and BCP the new constitution is critical because it gives the congress powers to be the final decision making UDC structure that makes binding decisions including democratic election of the leadership. Pilane will not budge on this one because he is unelectable. In the course of time he developed phobia of people’s power and internal party elections.
The BNF and BCP are also concerned about constituencies that remain under the management of BMD. The argument is that the capability of BMD to deliver on its mandate significantly diminished following the split that gave birth to AP. Pilane is adamant that he will not compromise on the constituencies allocated to BMD. Allowing BMD to keep the constituencies is tantamount to handing victory to BDP candidates in 2019. The new constitution will give Congress powers to resolve the impasse. Essentially the constitutional amendments are used to deal with political challenges.
If the status quo is maintained Operation Gcwihaba will be rolled-out. Under the operation Moshopa-Manyana will be replicated in other BMD held constituencies with slight modifications. In 2019 general elections BCP and BNF supporters will vote for independent candidates in defiance of their parties and the UDC.
*Comrade Molotov is not the author’s real name