Likely to resuscitate BDP from the dead
Just as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was gaining momentum and redemption after its miserable performance in the 2019 general election, disaster is being created by irreconcilable differences between Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which have been in the pressure cooker for as long as one can remember. The false unity of purpose that has been suggested by the UDC overtime has been rudely exposed as a convenient cover up to its deeply dysfunctional modus operandi across its broader value chain. Ordinarily, the choice of a candidate to represent the UDC in the upcoming Bophirima ward by election should not have brought the brouhaha that has caused the bickering because a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by the UDC together with other opposition political parties not in the coalition to deal with any by election conflict/challenge that could arise. Under the MOU framework, structures like the Joint Bye Election Committee and the Leadership Forum are there to address amongst others, issues like the Bophirima ward standoff. Over and above the MOU, there is the Opposition Coalition Forum. With the MOU officially firmly in place, any ensuing problem or challenge should not have been allowed to reign supreme in the public domain not least the UDC itself. But lo and behold, it is firmly in the public domain the MOU is not worth the piece of paper it is written on because it can be violated as and when desirable.
The Bophirima ward by election is not really the underlying cause of bickering between the BNF and the BCP. The real cause lies deeply in the lack of overall governance in the UDC precipitated in large measure by lack of political synergy between its President Adv Duma Boko and his deputy Hon Dumelang Saleshando. The two have been at odds against each other primarily because of bad governance that has been an integral part of the UDC construct. The admission of BCP into the UDC is itself shrouded in controversy because those who know say the admission was un-procedural as far as it relates to the admission of political parties into the UDC. In short, the BCP is gravely aggrieved by the apparent lack of participatory democracy in the UDC occasioned by bad governance. Since joining the UDC back in 2017 to date, the BCP has been advocating very strongly for the UDC to deeply introspect and demonstrate how it meaningfully promotes participatory democracy and take meaningful steps to rectify the same. From what has emerged in the UDC body politic, there is no demonstrable sign that governance thereat will be improved anytime soon.
Flowing from what is argued above, it is fair to suggest other opposition political parties (Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front) not yet in the UDC if they will ever be, are erring on the side of caution not to do so. In a way, their cautious approach should predictably be based on the BCP’s held view that participatory democracy and governance inside the UDC leaves much to be desired and that, they do not want to throw themselves at the deep end where they will suffocate and drown like it is the case with the BCP.
It is fair and reasonable to make a proposition that the UDC is an organisation, based on what its own partners say about it, is an organisation riddled with high levels of bad governance. Bad governance as opposed to good governance is defined as the one that is ‘centralised around the idea of not only corruption within a system but lack of transparency and accountability, arbitrary policy making and the cheating of those who are governed’. Others say one of the symptoms of bad governance is the absence of ‘adequate strategic plan or if there is, it is not followed’ fitting in the old adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. Flowing from this definition, it is fair to suggest the horrible state the UDC finds itself in perfectly fits it. I will go beyond this definition to say bad governance in the context of the UDC will also be precipitated by the serious dereliction of duty by its leadership not to comply with its own Constitution in many respects chief of which is the failure to hold a national congress as prescribed by Article 11 of the said Constitution and as read with other complementing Articles. It is sad if not concerning that the UDC has continually played down the importance of facilitating the election of its structures under extremely dishonest reasoning. It appears this process is at the sole discretion of the leadership. It cannot be.
If bad governance was absent in the UDC, would other partners like the BCP be crying foul? Not by any means because National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings would be held as provided for in the Constitution; all partners would be represented thereat and, all decisions would get buy in from all partners. Allegations that NEC meetings do not quorate at times would not arise. Just think of how the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) issue was clumsily handled whereupon it snowballed into a bigger political nightmare for the UDC from which it led to the founding of the Alliance for Progressives. A quick preventative and pragmatic resolution was desirable to keep the coalition intact had the leadership being proactive than reactive. If the MOU was properly respected and implemented, would the brouhaha surrounding candidacies in different wards have arisen? The answer should be an emphatic NO. Like I have said somewhere above, AP and BPF are not readily committing to join the UDC because of the bad governance tag that has become synonymous with the UDC-the so called government-in-waiting.
When there is confusion of calamitous proportions in the UDC as it occurred in the past, the BDP is smiling from ear to ear. Precisely because they would have been given a new lease of life to redeem itself. When there is an alternative to the BDP, the UDC time and time again renders it in the negative. The BDP is currently on its knees given the results of the recent by elections. When an opportunity presents itself for the UDC to finish the BDP off, it is somehow struck by the Stockholm Syndrome. As it stands, the pendulum seems to be swaying the BDP’s direction because of the likely split vote. Unaligned voters together with those aggrieved BNF/BCP voters could very well vote for the BDP as a protest.
The bickering between the BNF and the BCP has created another suicidal dimension for opposition politics at the University of Botswana (UB) where opposition student politics is evidently divided. It has since emerged students who belong to the BCP, BPF and AP have organised themselves into a structure on the face of which it appears, will be the isolation of the mainstream BNF from student and mainstream opposition politics. If this were to happen, the BNF will only be left with a historically weak partner in the form of Botswana Peoples Party that has contributed no material benefit to the UDC apart from the solidarity support. The main purpose of this development it would appear, is to isolate and weaken Adv Boko. The results of the upcoming BNF elective congress in July this year would determine who between Adv Boko and Dr Baathodi Molatlhegi is elected the President. If the former becomes victorious, the isolation plan could be intensified while if the latter does so, the isolation could be stalled in order to see whether Dr Molatlhegi turns bad governance into good governance. The paradigm shift in UB Opposition student politics is a developing story whose end result is yet to be determined. But one thing is clear: it will have a profound bearing on Opposition politics in the country.
When all is said and done, the bickering between the BNF and the BCP over the Bophirima ward emphatically confirms the UDC house of cards has been seriously shaken to a point of total collapse. Like it was in the past, it goes without saying the bickering comes with huge, obvious political ramifications in the short to immediate terms. The biggest beneficiary of UDC or should I say Opposition missteps whatever they are is the BDP who as history would demonstrate, is still in power precisely because of those costly missteps. Opposition politics led by the UDC has one fundamental solution: it should shed bad governance and wholeheartedly pursue and embrace good governance. Anything else will continually be described by the saying ‘so near yet so far’, I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!
‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’. Let us continue to adhere all Covid-19 protocols.