The opposition bloc will be tested once more as the time for constituency allocation nears ahead of the primary elections next year. Opposition parties are now running out of time and the upcoming constituency allocation is likely to build or break them.
Of recent, opposition parties have been failing to abide by the Memorandum of Agreement, which binds all of them to support each other during by-elections. Opposition parties have also promised Batswana that they are going to cooperate come 2024 general election with a single purpose of wrestling the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power. But their dreams seem farfetched and they are already off course before they could not implement their plan. Already talks within the opposition parties have long started between the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
However, what many had witnessed during the recent by-election was that some opposition parties found themselves slugging it out against each other, something that is against the by-election agreement. For example, at Goodhope/Mabule constituency, in the Pitshane/Molopo ward, the BPF contested against the UDC and the BDP.
In Metsimotlhabe, one of the opposition members decided to become an independent candidate and the same dispute nearly replicated at Ledumadumane East ward. One could have thought that by now opposition talks could be at an advanced stage as by 2023, some parties will want to focus mostly on party primary elections to select their aspirant candidates who will represent them in the 2024 general election. If parties fail to allocate constituencies and hold party primary elections then they will end up failing to manage their disputes which will even give the BDP more advantage.
Mmegi has found out that there will be problems in the Central District as the BPF is already positioning itself in most of the constituencies in that area. There might be fights in constituencies such as Sefhare/Ramokgonami, Nata/Gweta, Lerala/Maunatlala, Palapye, Mahalapye-East, Mahalapye West, Mmathethe/Molapowabojwang, and Gaborone South amongst others. It has become evident that there are going to be clashes in some constituencies that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives and Botswana National Front (BNF) are strong in. If issue of allocation are not dealt with appropriately this year, then more problems await the opposition parties with fears that they may find themselves deferring crucial decisions. It is apparent that some within the BPF leadership have 'big brother' mentality.
Currently, BPF has four MPs, BCP 11, Botswana People’s Party one, BNF two. The issue of the number of MPs that parties currently have has left other parties thinking that they are bigger than others. Therefore, the BPF believes that they could win most of the constituencies in the Central District in particular, since most people in the Central District believe that the party will be voted due to former president Ian Khama’s mercies as he is the chief of Bangwato as well as patron of the BPF. The Khama magic will be put to another major test in the 2024 general election mainly as the BPF seems to be a regional party based in the Central District.
The BPF is a splinter party that broke away from the BDP just on the eve of the 2019 general election. Historically, it has become clear that Batswana vote for combined opposition parties than separate ones. In 2014, for instance, Batswana rejected to vote for the BCP in large numbers simply because they were not part of the cooperation or coalition and the same thing happened to AP as they were not part of the UDC in 2019, which resulted in them retaining only one seat in Parliamentary.
University of Botswana (UB) political analyst Mokaloba Mokaloba said cooperation or pact comes with its own complications. “The recent by-election is a sign that the by-election Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), is not going to be a smooth sailing for total achievement for that cooperation. The best way is to sit and agree beyond the MoA. It is not going to be the MoA that could bring parties together. They need to have a model that could help them to allocate constituencies smoothly,” Mokaloba said in an interview.
Another UB political analyst Keaoleboga Dipogiso said it is already late for opposition parties to deal with the issue urging them to start working on the ground. “There is no need to drag the matter since it might cause a lot of problems. They will be at the same time be forced to hold party primary elections which also needs time. The issue of constituency allocation is a sensitive one since it could build or break opposition parties. History has shown that the allocation of constituencies is not easy.
One could remember the 2014 general elections why BCP had to pull out and the 2019 ones. Therefore, they need to move fast to address the matter. Of recent, evidence by by-elections show that the opposition does not have a strategy on issues of allocation of wards or constituencies. Issues of power-sharing especially before an election must be discussed on how much power is given to who, based on what,” Dipogiso said. The UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa said they have not yet dealt with the matter or started to discuss the issue of constituency allocations.