Almost every election year, since 2012 the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has been raising hopes of Batswana that it would be taking over the government from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been in power since 1966. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE samples a possibility of the UDC posting a win come 2024
FRANCISTOWN: It may be too early to ponder on the possible performance of the main opposition coalition party the UDC for now, but there are indications that post the 2019 general election, the UDC has not been at its best.
In the social media, indications have been that the party is not at peace with itself as there has been incessant exchanges of diatribe amongst members of the parties contracted to the UDC, in particular, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana National Front (BNF) .
There have been battles of the so-called Fearfokolos, who are loose cannons who any day will spew diatribe in any direction without any fear on the social media sparking unstoppable fights.
The UDC is a tri-party coalition consisting of the BCP, the BNF and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). There seem to be endless leadership clashes that have been disturbing peace instead of focusing on important developmental issues concerning the coalition.
One of the divisive matters relates to internal democracy which a section of the UDC feels is threatened as the current leadership has not been keen to hold elective congresses for a new leadership for the organisation.
This matter has since become a hot potato as proponents of the elective congress feel strongly that the current leadership has something to hide. It’s apparent that for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the strong feeling has been that the party should hold elections whilst mainly in the BNF and the BPP they hold a no-elections stance.
Veteran politician Michael Dingake finds the question whether the UDC will win the 2024 general election quite a tough one. He however, posits that it will depend on what happens between now and 2024.
“As of now, it seems parties contracted to the UDC are more at each others’ throat than focusing on the journey towards 2024 general election,” Dingake, a founding member of the BCP told Mmegi.
In his view, the UDC leadership has got good prospects of pulling a surprise against the current government led by President Mokgweetsi Masisi. He is adamant that the current leadership of the BDP is prone to blunders which could advantage the UDC so much if it was focused.
Dikgake says President Masisi has left the nation anxious after promising a review of the Constitution and up to now the process is yet to start. He also pointed out at the COVID-19 vaccine, which the Masisi administration has not been vocal on.
“Masisi seems hell-bent on accumulating personal wealth; take for instance the example of him competing with the ordinary people to rent Banyana Farms. That tends to weaken his leadership,” he says adding that, the whole affair can sometime become so blatant that the BDP does not look at things the way the ordinary people do.
To him, a focused UDC will win the hearts and minds of the people frustrated by the inconsiderate government of the BDP.
He was worried by the UDC failure to hold leadership elections which in his view could be a serious turn-off to some people.
He encouraged the UDC leadership to work very hard to avoid being divided by some of the issues he is positive they can manage. His observation was that every organisation has to experience issues in its lifetime, but what was best was the way out of the mess.
Another veteran politician, Patrick Kgoadi was worried about the current UDC, which he said lacked stakeholder consultation.
“We have not met to voice out on the UDC going forward. Even the current UDC constitution is not being followed. We see just one person dictating terms of what is being done,” said Kgoadi.
He indicated that the UDC in principle is okay, “unfortunately, it has a wishy-washy type of leadership,” he said. He cited the UDC democraticisation of the leadership and organisation which exists in the constitution but not practised.
“The UDC constitution must be respected if the UDC is serious in its endeavours to win the hearts and minds of the people. The constitution can never lie as it states that every three years the party has to hold an elective congress,” he noted.
In his view, the UDC can never be ready to win the elections going forward if it maintains its current outlook. He added that come 2024, the
“For the first time in the 2019 general election, I saw the UDC with so much campaigns money concentrated in one person. Opposition politics is ever at risk like any other time.”
He also noted that if the opposition doesn’t have any common ground with the trade unions, then it can’t be serious. In summation, Kgoadi was worried that Batswana are still going to suffer at the hands of the ruling BDP.
At some stage, Kgoadi, the chairperson of the BNF veteran association had recommended that the current UDC was derailing the BNF from taking over government. He was outright that the BNF should exit the UDC in its current form.
The UDC was formed in 2012 as a political alliance of three political parties, inter alia, BNF, BPP and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The BMD would later lose its UDC membership and the BCP joined the UDC at a later stage.
In the last general election, the BDP won 38 parliamentary seats, the UDC got 15, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) got three whilst the Alliance for Progressives got one seat. The UDC would later lose two legislators to the BDP whilst the UDC benefitted one MP from the BDP. The BPF also poached one MP from the BDP.
Speaking to a local newspaper recently on a similar subject, University of Botswana (UB) lecturer politics and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi posited that the UDC was rocked by divisions not based on ideological but personal differences. He would add that, “internal fighting over influence and positions was causing apprehension and anxiety amongst the regular members of the different parties.”
Like Dingake and Kgoadi, Mfundisi was worried that the UDC had not set up structures to deal effectively with internal issues that threaten to set the party asunder.
There could be doubting Thomases on the commitment of the BNF to opposition unity as portrayed in the social media and veteran association, but the BNF spokesperson, Justin Hunyepa is adamant that what is happening today is that, “we have a 2010 mandate to unite opposition parties. All these years we never had a mandate changing this mandate.”
He highlighted that this is a decision that they are determined to die for and are still solid on.
“Secondly, in all these years since 2010, we have been harping on the unity of all opposition parties and we haven’t changed. Boko last year toured the party regions and harped on the call for unity,” said Hunyepa.
In his view, those who have been talking against opposition unity within the BNF are just a storm in a tea cup. Admittedly, he was not surprised that there will always be wayward people in an organisation such as the BNF, but they will never remove their eyes from the political ball as the leadership.
“The BNF was founded to unite all the opposition parties from way back and we are on track to continue uniting other opposition parties,” he concluded.
BCP vice president Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang told Mmegi this week that it was time that robust debate was encouraged hinting that what was critical remains the forum where such a debate is carried. He was worried that unfortunately, people decide to take issues from the internal UDC and in-house debate to the public domain portraying the UDC as a party at war with itself.
He said people should also be able to pay attention to the timing upon which some of the issues are debated. In his view, technically, the UDC is just on the verge of an elective congress hence people are debating issues that they find relevant and should never be misconstrued to be fighting and undermining the UDC. He considers the UDC an asset in the BCP formation as it was allocated 18 constituencies and it delivered 11 of them whilst the BNF was allocated 34 and delivered only four of them. He is convinced that if all the contracting parties had performed like the BCP, the UDC will be in government now.
He considers the BNF to be bringing ideological direction of social democracy to the UDC, whilst the BCP brings administrative, management and policy formulation whilst the BCP is credited for its historical perspective.