Following the insipid performance of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in recent by-elections around the country, which saw it losing dismally against the joint opposition bloc, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), Alliance for Progressives ( AP) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) tripartite alliance of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), there is consensus within and outside the BDP that it is not doing some things right. Mmegi Correspondent LEBOGANG MOSIKARE writes
FRANCISTOWN: While it is a well-known fact that historically the BDP had not been doing well in by-elections only to post strong showing during the general elections, the party cannot rest on its laurels forever because political dynamics are fluid.
Doing so will be tantamount to an affront to the sensibilities of its followers who want the BDP to continue to rule until Jesus comes as some of its die-hard supporters are fond of saying.
Recently, BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse confirmed that the top hierarchy and its grassroots supporters alike are not pleased with the party’s recent losses in by-elections.
He also stated that the party’s losses against the UDC cannot be attributed to unpopular laws such as the eavesdropping bill and other laws that came before the former bill, reasoning that laws are made in Parliament following legal processes.
However, after probably sensing that it may be committing political suicide if it passes the spying Bill as the bill was proposed by the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, the BDP later watered down the Bill.
The ministry introduced some checks and balances to safeguard the civil liberties of the public following sustained backlash from members of the public, academia, civic organisations and even apolitical bodies such as the the Law Society of Botswana (LSB). Kentse’s counterpart, Phenyo Butale, who is the chairperson of Joint Opposition Forum (JOF), had previously stated that the success of the UDC in the recent by-elections are partly due to a number of factors. Amongst those factors, Butale explained, were incidences of corruption in the country that are implicating some BDP leaders and their relatives and the BDP’s penchant of coming up with laws or policies that were not people-centred amongst a host of reasons. Asked what may have contributed to the stellar performance of the joint opposition bloc in the recent by-elections and if the BDP will just like a phoenix manage to rise from the ashes during the general elections in 2024 just like it has done in the past, a political science analyst at the University of Botswana (UB), Adam Mfundisi is not convinced that the BDP will repeat that feat.
Mfundisi even downplayed the performance of the BDP during the 2019 elections. “The 2019 general election cannot be used as a standard of electoral performance by political parties in Botswana. They were marred with controversies bordering on ethical and/or unethical questions.
The BDP was faced with an existential threat in holding to power.
For the first time in the history of Botswana, we witnessed unprecedented numbers of election petitions which on the face of it were based on genuine grounds challenging the freeness, fairness, and credibility of the electoral process,” said Mfundisi. He added: “The government of Botswana and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) failed to adhere to the SADC principles on election management. Electoral fraud and rigging of elections were alleged, but our courts did not listen to the merits of the petitions. The UDC coalition was poised to defeat the BDP in the 2019 general election but the deep state mobilised resources to deny it glory. The BDP manifesto and campaigns were in shambles. It resorted to state sponsored intimidation, threats, and denial of opposition space to conduct a free, fair, and credible election campaigns...” Mfundisi is also of the view that the contributions of the UDC and their colleagues in the opposition ranks in Parliament is one of the reasons why the opposition has been doing well in the recent by-elections.
“The UDC collective is doing a sterling job in Parliament and local government levels. And the voting population is receiving the messages from the UDC coalition and therefore reflected in sterling performance in by-elections,” Mfundisi said. The UB maven is also of the view that if ex-president Ian Khama, who is currently on self-imposed exile in South Africa was present in Botswana, the BDP losses could have been catastrophic. “If Khama was in the country bolstering the campaigns, it would be devastating for the BDP. The BDP is furthermore losing its image and integrity due to the lies it peddles. Generally people have lost faith, trust, and confidence in the party and its leadership. The BDP makes more promises but delivers very little. Corruption has blossomed and proliferated more than ever in the country. A luta continua (the struggle continues) is the buzz word now and the UDC must mount a multi-pronged strategy to defeat the BDP in 2024,” said Mfundisi.
If the UDC is to be successful in the 2024 general elections and sustain its current by-elections momentum, Mfundisi postulates, it must mobilise against the envisaged ‘one - man’ constitutional change, wage a concerted denunciation of BDP policies in Parliament aimed at threatening civil liberties, call for electoral reforms, public education on voting protection amongst other points. “In a free, fair, and credible electoral process, the BDP would be defeated if elections were held today.
The erosion of public trust and confidence is continuing unabated. The UDC collective is a focused alliance with strategic leadership. It is performing excellently in all fronts that matters for political mobilisation. The opposition block in Parliament is doing very well in defending the rights and freedoms of the people. They are articulative on major policy areas. On the other side, their BDP counterparts are hopeless defending the undefendable,” Mfundisi pointed out.
He added: “Opposition MPs have proffered progressive policy proposals which are shot down by the weakling BDP legislators. The UDC coalition MPs bring out intelligible amendments to Executive proposals whereas BDP MPs shower praises on proposals that undermine the welfare of their constituents.
They are obsessed with glorifying President Mokgweetsi Masisi even on matters that do not require political patronage. The UDC coalition provides checks and balances where it is difficult to do amidst a hostile BDP group. Political corruption has consumed them and most have lost moral campuses. The misfortune of the BDP will continue up to the 2024 general election. A new dawn for Botswana is coming,” he added.