People discuss three options, but there are at least five. With the three widely discussed options, I see no more than partial solutions. The fourth is, in my view, not advisable. The fifth has not been discussed, but should at least be acknowledged and considered explicitly, even if it seems far-fetched.
l Fresh elections offer the most democratic way to resolve conflicts, but Pilane’s group cannot be forced to participate and shows no interest in doing so. What will the other members of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) do if (when) Pilane’s group refuses to go along? It is possible - but far from certain - that, after a refusal of fresh elections by Pilane’s group, the other members of UDC will decide to recognise Ndaba’s group because they are at least willing to hold fresh elections. Even that decision won’t give Ndaba’s legal claim to the Botswana Movement for Demcracy (BMD) name, symbol, etc. So, at best, this is a partial solution.
l Go to court - This is the only way to have a chance of keeping the BMD name and symbol in the absence of fresh elections. BMD members have a very intense identification with their party and, understandably, many want to fight to keep the name, colours, and symbol. But going to court is costly and not an obvious win. Winning rights to the BMD name and symbol does not reunite the party. The political logic of opposition cooperation means that the UDC will still need to figure out how to deal with both groups, regardless of which group holds legal rights to the BMD name and symbol. So, this is again no more than a partial solution.
l Form a new party - keeps Ndaba’s group together as a corporate entity, but the start-up costs are high. Further, this strategy reinforces rather than resolves the divisions between the Ndaba and Pilane groups and fragments the party system when the supposed goal is opposition unity.
The new party would then need to negotiate re-entry into the UDC, the ease of which will depend on how UDC deals with Pilane’s group. If Ndaba’s group forms a new party and cannot negotiate mutually agreeable terms for re-entering
l Form a compromise BMD NEC with representation from each of the two factions. This is not one of the options promoted by Ndaba’s group, but I have seen it floated here and there. In the long term, it would be great to see the two sides resolve their differences. Given the depth of the divisions, demonstrated unwillingness to negotiate, and the electoral timetable, the conditions seem unfavourable for that sort of conflict resolution. Thus, I view this strategy as unlikely, unstable if pursued in the absence of a real resolution of differences, and thus unpromising.
l The option that people are not discussing would be for Ndaba’s group to join one of the existing parties within UDC. Joining an existing party presents obvious challenges, but it should at least be recognised and contemplated rather than dismissed out of hand. Oh, there is a sixth option, that of joining the UDC as a group of individual members. I realise that few activists would find this option very attractive as it loses the sub-group identity, which has been the basis for negotiating constituency allocations.
Indeed, one of the challenges associated with allocating constituencies to parties through negotiations rather than primaries involving all members is that it reinforces both party divisions within the UDC and the regional nature of the member parties. But that is a challenge for another day ... a day after the UDC and the two parts of the BMD figure out whether and how to work together.
*Amy Poteete is a Associate Professor at Concordia University in Canada