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Crossroads: Time for Boko to rise to the occasion

In one of his Facebook posts, the president of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate Duma Boko says that as long as he is at the helm there will be order inside the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Moono family.

The post is characterised by veiled threats against those who are becoming impatient with the obvious stalemate in the UDC and are calling for progress. His henchmen label the BNF Central Committee as renegades, a term of late associated with Advocate Sydney Pilane, president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). To claim that there is order within the UDC is far from the truth unless people are in denial. This is the right time to introspect.

The truth is that there is frustration and helplessness amongst the general membership over lack of progress on all critical issues that dominated the recent Congress. These include revision of the constitution and submission of the final document to Registrar of Societies as well as allocation of constituencies taking into account the historic violent split of BMD.  That this has not happened cannot be blamed on any external force.

If it is true that the next meeting of UDC National Executive of Committee (NEC) is on April 24, 2018 then it might mean that the meeting will be held exactly two months after the Congress.  With so much anxiety and frustration amongst members of the contracting parties, especially Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), April 24 2018 may be too late. You cannot blame those who believe that these are delaying tactics by President of BMD Advocate Sydney Pilane with the tacit endorsement by Boko. The term “capture” is frequently being used to describe the relationship between the two advocates.

A significant section of the BNF and BCP have come to the conclusion that under its current configuration UDC will not bring about the desired results. This is because the 14 constituencies originally allocated to BMD will be lost on account of the weaknesses brought about by the split that gave birth to Alliance for Progressives (AP). It is worth noting that the recent UDC Congress resolved that all constituencies allocated to BMD except two should be withdrawn for redistribution, a matter to which Boko is averse.

What irks the BNF and BCP is that BMD has issued a writ of election to trigger primary elections in all the 14  constituencies in defiance of a Congress resolution. They are doing all these because of the unconditional support of UDC President. Otherwise, he could have issued a cautionary note to stop them. This could be the last straw that will break the camel’s back. That this is happening cannot be blamed on any external force.

What is annoying even more is that upon failing to identify credible candidates, the BMD turns to contracting parties using the 14 constituencies as an incentive to recruit their members.  As if that was not enough they have gone to the extent of recruiting disgruntled Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activists using the same incentive,

ignoring credible candidates from contracting parties. They would rather trust a political mercenary than a committed opposition member from either the BNF or BCP and expect members of these parties to vote for such individual which is preposterous. This is contrary to a claim by Mangole that they would approach contracting parties to avail a candidate in the event they fail to identify a suitable candidate. For this reason members of the BNF and BCP from affected constituencies have taken a hard-line position not to vote for BMD candidates recently recruited from the BDP or other contracting parties. They will vote for themselves, period. The move is likely to benefit AP.

The debate within BNF and BCP on the way forward includes amongst others, withdrawal from UDC and operating under a different configuration. Those who advocate for this move are well aware that such an arrangement requires a united BNF which is generally believed to be too fragile to withstand severe pressure.  They must tread carefully to avoid a BNF split.

For Boko he could be rising against time as he has to choose between BMD on the one hand and a BNF/BCP alliance on the other. With all due respect the position of Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) is inconsequential since their contribution mainly takes an emotional and moral dimension.

Under the current circumstances, bold decisions have to be taken like yesterday.  If previous meetings of UDC NEC are anything to go by, there is nothing much to expect at their April meeting. This is because Pilane, with the support of Boko, will reject all resolutions of the Congress because in his view, the NEC, not the  Congress is the supreme decision-making body. The meetings have turned out to be a forum used to subject other members to toxic insults from Pilane.  May be UDC needs politicians not advocates to provide leadership and take people out of the current impasse. 

However, there is still a glimmer of hope that upon his return from an overseas official trip, Boko will smell the coffee, look BMD in the eyes and tell them that the constituencies belong to UDC and it is the responsibility of the movement to decide on suitable candidates capable of taking BDP head-on in the 2019 general elections. Anything short of that could signal the beginning of the end of opposition coalition in its current form.  A completely new version will emerge.

Boko can delay the BNF exit but he does not have the same power to stop BCP from leaving a UDC that is clearly dysfunctional. A different trajectory will save members from perpetual trauma and low morale that cost UDC Ralekgetho and could spell doom in Moselewapula (Francistown West Constituency) and Mochudi East by elections.

*Moruti Molatlhegi is not the author’s real name.


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