Major players going into this year's general elections, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) have had a shaky start to their campaigns mainly due to internal squabbles.
While the UDC managed to resolve its woes, for the BDP, the thorn in the flesh remains Ian Khama and his breakaway party the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
Since the 2014 general elections these two parties have never had a break, as cracks started to show in each party.
The UDC problems started when one of its former affiliates Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) began to exhibit traits of conflicts, which they failed to contain.
In 2016 during BMD congress, things came to a head when the infighting within the party became so intense that the other faction led by Sidney Pilane blocked the one led by Ndaba Gaolathe from attending the congress.
Subsequently the Gaolathe’s faction made an appeal to UDC to intervene. However, UDC’s intervention to try to reconcile the two factions failed and Gaolathe later formed his own party, the Alliance for Progressives (AP).
Many thought the UDC problems were over, but BMD president Pilane started to openly disagree with UDC leadership. That alone made UDC expel BMD from the coalition after an initial suspension. Both AP and BMD are contesting elections outside UDC coalition.
Another problem that might cost UDC in this year’s election is the incidence of court cases. Some members of Botswana National Front |(BNF) which is an affiliate to UDC recently took the party to court because challenging the outcomes of primary elections. The party took long to resolve some of the cases only to act with speed when nomination dates were near.
“This calls for reform in election processes of BNF and UDC. Four cases resolved on the last day of nominations shows that something in our processes is wrong and it contributed to instability. We can’t run primary elections through court orders,” one of the
The BDP problems started way before the 2014 general elections, as some members were not comfortable with Khama’s leadership style.
During Khama’s tenure, some party members felt that Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) interfered in party affairs.
Some of the members who strongly disagreed with Khama lost party primary elections while others got suspended. The problem persisted even in 2014 general elections as BDP popular vote went down to 47%.
Another aspect that the party could not see coming was the fallout between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Khama, and as a result the BDP has been shaken to the core in some areas.
The fallout between the two men came after Masisi was inaugurated as the President of the country. Even though Khama had initially supported Masisi, it became clear that they had a gentleman’s agreement on the issue of Vice Presidency, at least from media reports.
It is alleged that Khama had wanted Masisi to make his young brother, Tshekedi Khama Vice President, which he (Khama) disputed.
In an interview with Mmegi, Khama said Masisi was the one who made the promise to Tshekedi. The relationship became sour when Masisi reversed some of the decisions Khama had made while president.
That made Khama to speak out about Masisi’s leadership. Khama started to frolic with the UDC and he is now a patron of BPF, the newly formed party.
There is no doubt that Khama has done irreparable damage to the ruling party particularly in the BDP heartland, the Central District.
Central district has 19 constituencies and some of the constituencies are likely to be snatched by BPF from BDP. However, the exact scope of the damage has not yet been quantified and including its ramifications of the BDP fortunes.