While opposition parties have held successful joint rallies and other events in Gaborone, it has come to the fore that they still have a mountain to climb.
Nominations for the upcoming council by-elections in 11 wards have exposed that the parties are not as united as purported by the parties and their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This is after the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) could not agree to back one another in at least two wards.
UDC and BPF have both fielded candidates at Lerolwane ward in the Molapowabojang/Mmathethe constituency as well as Ga-Molopo ward in Goodhope/Mabule constituency.
According to the MoU signed by the Alliance for Progressives (AP), BPF and UDC 12 months ago, one of the first things in their trilateral agreement was that they would have one ticket for the by-election. That has since collapsed with sources stating that there are some leaders as well as party members who are against the cooperation. “The BPF had agreed that they would not contest in Ga-Molopo and Khwee, but some leaders defied the agreement and wrote letters to the contestants so they could submit names for nomination. We, however, managed to stop that from happening in Khwee and unfortunately a name was nominated in Ga-Molopo,” a source said.
This is said to have led to a heated confrontation between BPF. An audio recording of BPF spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse daring secretary-general, Tshekedi Khama, made rounds Sunday morning. According to a source, Ookeditse was rebuking Khama for issuing letters to candidates against party’s agreement with other opposition parties.
Meanwhile, The Monitor visited Phitshane-Molopo over the weekend where it became apparent that the opposition parties are not united. “We are happy that the BPF has put a candidate against us. We will defeat them badly and show them that they need us. We do not want to work with the BPF even going to the 2024 General Election. Our leaders take all these decisions alone in Gaborone that we should work with them without even engaging us,” a source within UDC structures, who did not want to be named, said.
Upon seeking clarity from BPF as to why they would field a candidate against the UDC, BPF Ookeditse referred the reporter to Phenyo Butale.
For his part, Forum spokesperson Butale said failure to reach an agreement on the two wards is not a train smash as they are on a journey to eventually have everyone on board.
“You should understand that some people would be reluctant to understand the bigger vision and just think of how much they have worked for their wards or constituencies before. We do not see this as a failure of our intentions. With time our people will understand and come aboard,” he said.
BDP will contest in all the 11 wards, UDC in eight wards, BPF in three wards, AP in two wards, Botswana Movement for Democracy in one ward while five independent candidates will contest in four wards in the elections billed for December 18, 2021.