The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which had inspired so much hope for thousands of Batswana when it was formed is a movement in crisis.
First was the crisis of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) one of the UDC constituent parties, which culminated in a violent confrontation at its (BMD) congress and the subsequent departure of a major section of its members to form the Alliance of Progressives.
Members of other alliance parties have been discussing the import and significance of the implosion of the BMD for the UDC. The main thrust of these discussions have been on the political weight of the BMD within the alliance and whether it still deserved the 14 constituencies allocated to It prior to its split.
It was the considered view of many BNF and BCP activists that BMD had been severely weakened by the split, and even with the best support of its alliance parties, it was unlikely to deliver on its mandate of winning those constituencies for the UDC in the 2019 elections.
This was not just a subjective view, unsupported by empirical evidence. On a number of occasions in constituencies like Mogoditshane, Gaborone North and Gaborone Bonnington South, an attempt to convene UDC general membership meetings were unsuccessful on account of the failure to turn up by BMD members. It is in the light of this situation that BNF and BCP members sought an open discussion on the issue of constituencies allocated to the BMD. It would adversely impact on the UDC’s electoral performance if it was not discussed and resolved. On the other hand, the BMD took the position that allocation of constituencies was a closed issue, not- withstanding the fact that it had suffered a major split, which emptied it of the bulk of its membership.
In support of this argument, the BMD leader relies on a facile legalistic argument that all UDC partners are equal and that the BMD has a legal entitlement to constituencies previously allocated to it. This is an insincere and spurious argument. It ignores the fundamental logic of alliance politics which seeks to maximise on the collective strength of alliance partners to strike a fatal blow against its political adversary, the BDP.
The BMD split, necessarily implies that its contribution to the alliance has been significantly undermined, thus necessitating a review of the political configuration of the alliance, in particular the allocation of constituencies to parties based as it was on the perceived political weight of the respective parties in particular constituencies. Failure to take the BMD split into account would be politically irresponsible and suicidal, and would predetermine a disastrous political defeat of the UDC during the 2019 elections.
It was on account of this fact that BNF and BCP members were relieved when they received a notice of invitation to the UDC inaugural congress, indicating that the issue of allocation of constituencies was one of the agenda items for the congress. In the pre-congress meetings held across the constituencies they thoroughly thrashed out this issue and formulated draft resolutions for discussions and possible adoption by the congress.
The UDC has since its inception five years ago been operating with a provisional constitution and unelected interim leadership. Both the UDC constitutional imperatives and elementary democratic organisational principles dictated that the mass of the UDC members should have been afforded the opportunity to elect its leadership or at the very least confirm the interim leadership at the congress. In accordance with clear provisions of the provisional constitution that the congress is the supreme organ of the UDC, the congress delegates should have been given the opportunity to formally adopt the constitution and freely discuss and resolve on issues of major importance to the UDC.
To facilitate this process, it was incumbent on the UDC leadership in particular its president Comrade Boko to submit a comprehensive report to the congress, rendering an account of the political and organisational work the interim leadership has carried out since the UDC’s inception, including review of UDC’s performance in the last elections, the leadership analysis and perspective of the BMD split and an elaboration of the tasks of the UDC in the coming period, in the light of the political situation in the country. But alas, Comrade Boko made not even the slightest attempt to render any account of his leaderships work in the past, offer any guidance to the members on any of the issues facing the UDC, but went completely off tangent, and angrily lashed out at BNF delegates for daring to raise the issue of the constituencies allocated to the BMD, even, threatening to quit the BNF leadership, if his wish was not accepted. When the delegates took him to task for his bare-faced attempt to stifle democratic debate, he walked out of the congress. Worse still, he went on to repeat his angry outbursts against the BNF at the UDC rally which was held in the afternoon of that day. Comrade Boko’s conduct was clear manifestation of mind-boggling political ineptitude, scandalous failure of leadership and a blatant act of extreme disrespect and disloyalty to the BNF.
As a result of Boko’s failure of leadership, the congress broke into commissions without having had the benefit of any guidance from the leadership. It later dispersed without having formally adopted the constitution, the discussed amendments, or endorsed the leadership or resolved any of the issues raised by the delegates, in particular the crucial issue of constituencies allocated to the BMD. The masses of the BNF and BCP members and activists are expected by the UDC leadership to go and canvass for support for BMD candidates in constituencies like Mogoditshane, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnington South, notwithstanding these activists full consciousness of the fact that the BMD has no organised presence or any significant support in those constituencies. It is not difficult to predict that these comrades will in all probability not allow the UDC leadership to take them for granted in this manner. The majority will most likely either cast a protest vote against the UDC or not vote at all. In either case, the BDP would be assured of easy electoral victory in
With no prospect for any UDC congress in the immediate future, no channels remain through which BNF nor other UDC rank and file members, can exert its influence on the UDC leadership or assume real political ownership and responsibility of the UDC. It is imperative for the BNF activists in particular, to initiate a thorough discussion on the BNF’s place within the UDC, and the leadership of Comrade Boko. Some comrades may express doubt or even strong objection to our position for reasons of preserving stability within the BNF.
Our response to such comrades is that to avoid discussion of burning or controversial questions affecting the life of our organisation and the interests of the masses for the sake of supposed peace or false unity, is politically irresponsible and short-sighted in that it would deprive the members of the only principled way of resolving such issues and risk colliding with them unprepared in future, with disastrous consequences for the further evolution of our movement.
The starting point for such a discussion is to acknowledge openly and publicly that the UDC is afflicted with a serious crisis on account of sabotage and corrosion from within by the BMD leadership with complicity of our own leader, Comrade Boko. In fact the UDC project has been captured and prostituted by the Boko/Pilane clique. To address this issue, we have to agitate for a special BNF congress where the mass of BNF members can have the opportunity to fully and openly discuss the UDC crisis and whether it is politically advisable in the light of the clear organic ailment of the UDC, the clear bankruptcy of its leadership to remain a member of that organisation.
The second most important point is to acknowledge that Comrade Boko, by openly attacking the BNF, and denigrating its members in the presence of other parties and foreign guests, has committed an unpardonable act of disloyalty to the BNF, and lost the political and moral authority to lead it. Comrade Boko has displayed other negative traits and tendencies, which render him intrinsically unsuitable for continued leadership of our movement.
In successive BNF conferences he has repeatedly failed to submit reports rendering an account of the work of the central committee to conference delegates, or offering any guidance on any important political or tactical problems facing the BNF. Over the year many comrades have drawn his attention to this omission, but to no avail. In the same conferences and other fora, Comrade Boko has consistently been attacking the progressive foundations of our movement and wantonly denigrating other party members who hold different views from his. Just recently Comrade Boko was petitioned by the BNF central committee for his persistent failure to convene and attend central committee meetings.
His flamboyant style of leadership, penchant for self-praise, extreme intolerance and disregard of elementary organisational principles and norms of our movement such as acceptance of criticism and self- criticism and collective leadership render him completely impervious to comradely advice.
Comrade Boko’s hobnobbing with the most reactionary forces such as the Democratic Alliance of South Africa, the main political representative of white monopoly capital in that country, is an affront to the progressive traditions of our movement. Our traditional allies are the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party and other progressive anti-imperialist movements on the African continent and the world. The BNF’s alliance with the BMD was never meant to subvert, nor in any way compromise its (BNF) position in this regard. Comrade Boko’s foreign policy antics strike at the very core of BNF’s fundamental principles, and a serious political embarrassment to our movement.
Comrade Boko seems to delude himself that the BNF needs him more than he needs it. In fact he has become a major liability to our movement, and the sooner he is removed from the BNF Presidency the better. The BNF should not be led by a man who is disrespectful to its members, contemptuous of its core values, norms and principles and generally lazy and incompetent in discharging his functions as party leader. If the UDC were to assume state power with him at the helm, its capacity for delivering on its popular democratic mandate would be seriously undermined, worse still, such a government would be led by a leader with dictatorial traits probably worse than Khama’s. It is imperative that we act now to prevent the probable occurrence of such a tragic eventuality.
It is on the basis of the factors stated above that we appeal to BNF members to initiate the process of recalling Comrade Boko from the BNF Presidency. General membership meetings should be held in constituencies to discuss the issues we have raised and prepare for petitioning the Central Committee to convene a special congress.
The purpose of such congress would be to critically evaluate and review the UDC project in the light of the outcome of its recent inaugural congress, discuss and resolve on whether it is still politically advisable for the BNF to remain a UDC member. The congress would also be tasked with possibly adopting a new platform for Unity among progressive opposition parties, in particular the BNF and BCP and electing a new leadership.
Concerned BNF Members