Molapise dismisses opposition merger


FRANCISTOWN: In recent years, various political pundits have posited that a total merger of the country’s opposition parties could halt the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s over 50-years stay in power.

In yet another development, some opposition party activists, particularly those belonging to tri-parties affiliated to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), have been putting pressure on their parties to merge.

Many believe that the merger should be engineered by two of the country’s leading opposition political giants-Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

The merger is considered to be a panacea to the troubled opposition parties that have incessantly failed to oust the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) over the years. The BDP has been in continuous power since the country attained power from the British rule in 1966.

However, outgoing BPP president Motlatsi Molapise, whose party is also affiliated to the UDC, holds a view that a total merger of the country’s opposition parties will always remain a “dream.” Molapise is also the chairperson of the tri-party UDC.

“The merger will not happen,” he warned and added: ‘Not as a result of the ideological differences of opposition parties. It will always prove difficult to merge local opposition parties because of the mind-set of their ordinary members. They (members) do not want to see their respective parties dying or being incorporated into another party,”  said Molapise when speaking in a wide-ranging interview with Mmegi at his Somerset-West home last week.

On another level, Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) president Tlhabologo Furniture in a recent interview indicated that the position of the BCPYL was for the three parties comprising the UDC coalition abandoning their individual identities and forming a total merger.

Despite that, Molapise’s position is that the BPP had always backed efforts to merge opposition parties, saying, “In 2011, when opposition parties started exploring the idea of working together, the BPP proposed a complete merger of all opposition parties. Our proposal did not see the light of the day,” he said.

Molapise is expected to bow out from his position as the BPP president before the end of the year. He also used the interview to highlight the progress that his party has made over the years, with reference to reviving its fortunes. Often times the BPP has been labelled a regional party that is only based in the north-east of the country. The party now has set up an office in Gaborone in its bid to take the country’s oldest party to the southern part of the country where it also used to have a presence.

The office, which was opened three months ago, will be used to coordinate party activities such as recruitment of new members in the south.

It is situated at the Gaborone Main mall. The outspoken BPP leader added that the party has been running an office in Tatisiding, near Francistown for over a year. Both party offices have a single staff member. The two offices are run with the assistance of well wishers, according to veteran opposition politician, Molapise.    

More often, the BPP has been faced with leadership crisis and Molapise was forced to come out of retirement to rescue the party.

Now, the veteran politician has vowed that he will never rescue the party again. He says that he has served the party with distinction and is time for him to rest. The 77-year-old first rose to the helm of the BPP presidency in 2000.

“I could have left a few years ago. My stay was prolonged because the UDC was still taking shape. There was fear that bringing in a new leader in the BPP could disturb the momentum of the coalition talks,” explained former mayor of Francistown. In the past, there have also been concerns that the BPP has failed to come up with a deliberate succession plan to take over from Molapise, who took up the party leadership following former president Bernard Balikani’s early retirement from politics.

In fact, majority of those who recently declared their desire to replace Molapise, are those who were recently recruited into the party. This development has heightened reports that the party has failed to groom someone from within its ranks to replace its retiring leader.

Molapise declined to discuss issues surrounding his potential replacement or the perception that the party has failed to groom someone as his replacement.

He also highlighted the challenges bedeviling the BPP, which issues he believes, will be inherited by his successor.

“The biggest challenge that my successor will face is lack of resources.

Because there is no political funding in Botswana, parties struggle with financial resources. I have been loyal to the party and I have kept it going despite the hardships I have faced,” he said and added: “My biggest hope is that someone who will take over from me will remain loyal to the party even in the midst of serious obstacles.”

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