UDC, BPF, BCP differ over framework of cooperation

Boko and Saleshando PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Boko and Saleshando PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

FRANCISTOWN: The deteriorating relationship between Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) could be scuppering the Umbrella for Democratic Coalition’s (UDC) chances of taking over power from the ruling party in the hotly anticipated 2024 general elections.

The UDC is made up of BNF, BCP and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). Over the years, scores of Batswana and analysts have bemoaned the fact that opposition parties have a tendency of fighting over trivial issues that lead to their breakup. This tendency, analysts have said has unnecessarily extended the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) reign of power when many have thought that time was ripe for the taking over of the governing of the country. The status quo has dismayed scores of opposition supporters who are longing for the change of guard at the upper echelons of government. Just recently and over the years, the opposition has been convincingly defeating the BDP in by-elections-a factor that has raised the hopes of supporters of the combined opposition that power was within their reach. As a matter of fact, the BNF and the BCP have a history of long simmering tensions that precede the recent Bophirima ward by-election fracas. However, the way things are panning out, history will once more repeat itself following the emergence of tensions over the position to be adopted by parties under the banner of the UDC at the framework for cooperation talks with the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). The BCP has said that it is going to make solo submissions about which model of cooperation to adopt at the negotiations table with the AP and BPF outside the UDC. However, the BCP’s planned move is already causing hostility within the UDC.

BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando told Mmegi this week that the party’s decision to make its own submission at the cooperation talks is in order. This is despite the fact that other parties in the UDC maintain the contrary. He said that in March there was a meeting attended by presidents from all opposition parties (that have entered cooperation talks) where a resolution was taken that parties should make individual submissions. The March meeting was chaired by coordinator of opposition talks, Dr Margaret Nasha.

The meeting was attended by Saleshando, Duma Boko, Ndaba Gaolathe, Caroline Lesang and Dr Phillip Bulawa representing the BCP, BNF, AP, BPF and BPP respectively. Recently, Nasha released a statement to the effect that the national executive committee (NEC) of the UDC is going to meet on May 21, 2022 whereupon decisions about how the coalition is going to approach opposition talks with the AP and BPF. In the same press release, Nasha stated that the AP and BCP are ready to submit their position papers on opposition talks on April 30, 2022 while the BPF has asked to be given time to submit its position paper on May 2, 2022. In the same vein, according to Nasha, the BNF had asked for a three-week postponement to submit its position in order to allow the UDC NEC to chart the way forward about the matter. Asked about whether the BCP will be right or wrong to table its proposal about how opposition talks should happen outside the UDC while it is a member of the latter, Nasha stated that she will not comment beyond what she said in the press release. Nasha added she was mandated by the presidents of the BCP, BNF and BPP to write the press release. Asked to comment about the BCP’s move to submit its proposal outside the UDC, Dr Bulawa who attended the meeting on behalf of the BPP president Motlatsi Molapisi said: “I can’t say anything beyond the press release that was issued by Nasha.” However, sources within the opposition say that although the BCP is saying that there was a resolution to the effect that parties within the UDC can make individual submissions at the negotiating table with the AP and BNF, nothing to that effect was taken during the March 15, 2022 meeting.

Their position is that Saleshando made a proposal that the BCP wants to make its own submissions at the cooperation talks, but it was not endorsed by the other parties at the meeting. UDC president, Boko, is said to have chosen to remain silent after Saleshando tabled his proposal.

The BPP sources say consensus within the UDC is that its affiliates will first meet on May 21, 2022 and agree on a common opposition cooperation model following the recent position of the BCP. “Anything contrary to that will not be in order,” the sources added.

The BPF also maintains that it has entered into cooperation talks with the UDC and not the BCP. “That is the position we are at and if there is to be a change in terms of this, we do take it that we will be duly notified,” said BPF spokesperson, Lawrence Ookeditse this week.

“We are principled people. In terms of our principles what we have figured out is that there is a UDC and the UDC as far as we know includes the BNF, BCP and the BPP. Given that they are a tripartite alliance of sorts we cannot be at the table negotiating with the UDC and BCP at the same time,” he added.

He pointed out that if the BPF and AP were to open cooperation talks with the UDC and the BCP at the same time it might mean that the outcomes of the talks may not be fair on them (AP and BPF).

“It would seem as though that the UDC is negotiating with us in bad faith because then it means that they are negotiating on two fronts.”

Ookeditse went on to explain that each party (UDC, AP and BPF) has three representatives at the talks. He said should the BCP be allowed to file its individual submissions at the talks, the move will leave the coalition having six negotiators while the other parties have three each.

“If we are to move from consensus to a vote during the talks it will mean that the UDC has a disproportionate number of votes because it is coming in as a block and as the BCP. What we have been informed formally is that the UDC has a meeting towards the end of the May and after this meeting we will know what the exact position of the UDC is,” he said adding that the BPF will not dictate how the UDC choose to approach the talks.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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