Incessant internal wrangles bedevilling Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) affiliates, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana National Front (BNF) have reportedly reached an all time high, Mmegi has learnt.
The BC, BNF and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) are the constituent elements of the UDC tri-party alliance.
It has since surfaced that bitter rivalry is brewing between the two parties who believe they are bigger than each other. The fight for the control of the UDC is threatening to further polarise the parties that have known no peace for sometime now. Mmegi has reliably been informed that the recent Student Representative Council (SRC) elections at the University of Botswana (UB) compounded the situation as the BCP candidates who wanted to contest under the UDC banner were snubbed.
Sources within the UDC also said the BNF-affiliated students worked closely with the Alliance for Progressives (AP) students at the exclusion of the BCP students.
“It looks like the BNF has an upper hand in the UDC than others. What is important is for all parties to revisit their agreement on coalition. Consultation is the key on coalition and that is why it has failed elsewhere. Again, it must be clear if the agreement is based on popular vote, number of seats in Parliament and each party contribution to the UDC must be very clear,” said the source.
Mmegi has also been informed that the BCP Chobe and Okavango regions are also demanding that the party’s president, Dumelang Saleshando give them clear answers on the state of the party in the UDC and what exactly happened during the UB elections. The members according to a source revealed this when the party president had gone to update them on the state of the party and its coalition on UDC. The source said the members indicated that the answers that would be brought by the president would get them to make informed decisions on whether to stay or pull out at their congress next July. It is understood that Saleshando could have addressed Gaborone region on Saturday, but the meeting failed due to poor network since he was out of the country. “The members also shared the same view with Chobe region. They believe that the BCP input is not recognised in the UDC and therefore they do not see the importance of forcing things. The members feel that the party leadership of both parties should work together if they want to resolve issues within the UDC. Members want Saleshando to give them a clear picture on what is happening in the UDC and how the 2019 election petition legal fees were resolved. They also want to know if the UDC national executive committee do meet or not and if there are people who make decisions without consulting others,” the source said.
However, the BCP president said once done with all regions, they have to report to the central committee and cannot share any details until then. “I am still doing constituency work, I will visit other constituencies soon,” Saleshando said in an interview. This came after the BCP central committee resolved that the leadership should undertake a national tour to brief members on an array of issues such as the state of the BCP and that of the UDC, upcoming cooperation talks and the recently signed agreement on by-elections. The meetings will give the party an opportunity to re-energise the party base and attract new members to its fold. Political analysts believe that it is time both the BNF and the BCP re-visit the agreement that both parties made, when they affiliated to the UDC.
Political analyst, Lesole Machacha said what recently happened at the UB does not really have to be the reason why some BCP members want to pull out from the UDC, because students do not really take decisions based on what party leaders are saying. The political analyst said the UDC central committee must give directions when other issues arise.
“This is bound to happen because opposition parties again believe that they stand a good chance in 2024, so different party leaders are starting to position themselves for upper positions in an event they win. What is basically happening in the UDC is a power struggle. That is one of the reason why the BCP has started to brief its members on what could be happening in the UDC. If one of the parties could pull out, then the UDC popular vote will go down,” said Machacha in an interview on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the BCP will be holding its elective congress to review its constitution. A number of amendments have been introduced in an endeavour to build a truly democratic, transparent and accountable organisation that is best positioned to deliver transformative changes to the nation.
“Owing to the COVID-19 restrictions, it has not been possible to convene a constitutional conference, which would be followed by a conference that would elect a new central committee. The central committee directed that the constitutional conference and the national elective conference should be convened during the current year in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols.
Historically, the BNF and BCP relationship has never been strong. It has always been marred by conflicts due to the big ‘brother mentality’.
In 2014, the BCP pulled out of coalition talks when it felt that the agreement between parties was not favouring them. This however, did not bode well with them as it affected the party’s performance. The situation made the party introspect at its congress in Kanye where it made the resolution to work with other parties.