Another opposition coalition in the offing?


The tension between Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and some of its partners in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) seems to be growing by the day.

Already there is a group within the BCP that is lobbying for the party to leave the UDC and form an alliance with the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

As such a BCP national executive committee (NEC) meeting scheduled to be held after the holidays will discuss the strained relations within the UDC.

During Bophirima ward by-election, AP was the only opposition party outside the coalition which supported the BCP while another non-affiliate of the UDC, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), rooted for the Umbrella.

This was after both parties the UDC and BCP fielded candidates to contest for the ward. Despite the existence of an opposition Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on by-elections, tensions forced BPF and AP to divide themselves amongst the two parties. UDC affiliates are Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and BCP.

The scheduled July congress will be a critical one for the BCP, as it will determine whether the party remains in the UDC or leaves. BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando’s report on the UDC will give direction to the members on thorny issues.

Some BCP members on social media are not hiding their views regarding the matter. They feel the unfolding developments within the UDC saga are too hot to bear, therefore cannot allow the BCP to stay in the coalition.

Following the trial of their pact, AP secretary-general, Phenyo Butale and BCP spokesperson, Mpho Pheko released a press statement thanking the Bophirima ward voters. The release gave a hint on the matter.

“We are encouraged by the outcome and we believe it will go a long way in reminding all colleagues in the opposition bloc, that our demand for a coalition of equals; anchored on fairness, consultation and democratic ideals, is exactly what we need going forward,” read the joint statement. “We hope that as opposition parties engage to map the pathway for 2024, these ideals will be upheld. We will continue to fearlessly defend these ideals that we believe are key in any formation that seeks to run this country into the future.”

Asked to comment on the matter, University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Mokaloba Mokaloba said not all is well in the relationship between BCP and BNF. He added it would not be surprising if the two go separate ways.

“After what happened at Bophirima ward, there is already talk that they want to go separate ways. It is evident that there is no party that can win the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) without the help of other opposition parties. It is clear that the BCP is considering its stand-alone with AP. The coalition needs all stakeholders,” Mokaloba said.

“The UDC also cannot win without the BCP and AP. BCP and AP cannot dethrone the BDP on their own and their performance also at Bophirima was not impressive. Currently, both UDC and BCP/AP will only compete for who is going to be the main opposition if they cannot work together. This will give the BDP a chance to continue being the ruling party.”

In addition, he said a tough testing time lies ahead for opposition politics adding that this could make or break their chances of seriously challenging the BDP for state power in 2024.

For his part, Professor Zibani Maundeni said based on what has been happening, the BCP will have to explain to the members at the congress or conference on what is exactly happening at the UDC and the response of members is the one that matters.

“This is beyond party central committees. It may have its views, but the congress or conference may think another way. If the congress or conference believes that they should pull out, then the party will have no option but to do so. Currently, we have to see what happens if BCP and UDC will resolve their differences,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said they have a national executive committee (NEC) meeting slated for the weekend.

“I would not say whether the issue will be discussed or not. We are meeting for different issues. Maybe it will be discussed or not,” he said.

During his Bophirima victory speech on Sunday, Boko maintained that they still need the BCP adding that the UDC will not split because of what happened during the by-election.

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