Demands 12 constituencies in GaMmangwato
Coalition partners disagree, want to conclude talks first
To avoid problems, opposition should form one party – Analyst
The Opposition Cooperation Forum faces the first insurmountable hurdle following a demand by Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) that at least 12 out of 19 constituencies in the vast Central District be allocated to them for 2024 elections.
According to impeccable sources close to the unity talks, disagreements over allocation of constituencies threaten to be a major setback to the gains made thus far. During a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, the coalition partners are expected to present their proposals, with the allocation of constituencies likely to be a major burning issue under consideration.
The opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), currently made up of three (3) parties being Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP) is in unity talks with the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and BPF.
BPF, the GaMmangwato backed political formation which broke away from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) shortly before the 2019 general elections is targeting constituencies in the Central district to entrench its stronghold.
During the 2019 elections the opposition collective of UDC and BPF won 15 Parliamentary seats. The win brought the dominance of the BDP in the central district since independence to an abrupt end, which has been credited to the un-ending feud between BPF Patron and former President Ian Khama and his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Khama left the BDP ahead of 2019 elections following a fallout with Masisi, and later mounted a countrywide spirited campaign alongside the UDC in an attempt to remove the BDP from power. It is to this reasons that the BPF believe they can do well in constituencies in the central district.
Constituencies that BPF is targeting include all the three in Serowe, Shoshong, Mmadinare, Nata-Gweta, Boteti East and Palapye to mentions a few.
The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that the next session of the opposition forum talks, scheduled for next month, will consider the cooperation model to adopt going forward. On the other hand, BPF is said to be keen on parties to ponder the allocation of the constituencies first. “There is different views on the matter of constituencies as other parties being UDC and AP are not in a hurry to focus on constituencies before talks can be concluded. It has been also suggested that parties conclude the talks and at a later stage focus on constituencies,” revealed the source.
Contacted for a comment on Friday, Opposition Cooperation Forum Chairperson Dr. Margret Nasha said at the moment they are focusing on issues such as reaching an agreement on the model. She said there will be a committee that will be appointed by parties to deal with constituencies.
Pressed further, Dr Nasha referred this publication to the spokesperson of the forum Moeti Mohwasa. In an interview, Mohwasa said they are still at the level of negotiation framework regarding talks. He said the issue of constituency allocation will come at a later stage, also confirming that next meeting will be held on Tuesday next week.
Independent political analyst Lesole Machacha said the matter of constituency will be a key test for the opposition unity, emphasizing that parties should all tread carefully when addressing it. He said it has always been difficult for opposition parties to share constituencies without fighting.
“Everything has been smooth since the commencement of the talks. It will be important for parties to take a smooth approach in dealing with the constituency allocation. It will be a great downfall for the talks if parties start to choose where they want to stand based on their matter of stronghold constituencies. It is important for parties to have a proper structure this time around,” he noted.
Further, Machacha said it is time for the opposition parties to form one party under UDC. This, he said, will allow the united party to settle their differences in a cordial manner. “Under the current shape, if one party feels aggrieved they can just pull out easily hence this leading to a vote split like it happened when AP broke away from UDC during the 2019 elections,” he added.
Shortly after an impressive victory in the council by-elections last month, the UDC contracting parties -BNF and BCP were at loggerheads over nomination of a candidate for the upcoming by-election in Ledumadumane ward in Mogoditshane.
At center of the squabble was who is the rightful candidate to represent the coalition between Oupa Moipolai of BNF and Banks Ndebele of the BCP. After some days of tension, the UDC resolved to go with Moipolai as its candidate. Mohwasa -the UDC spokesperson, confirmed that they will be represented by Moipolai in the by-election.
Machacha observed that the recent developments in Ledumadumane is a clear demonstration that there is still some missing ingredients in the existence of unity in the opposition coalition. He warned that coalition politics are always problematic, hence it needs extra caution.
“What normally transpires is that voters end up losing confidence on the party owing to the disagreements that emanate from fighting for positions. UDC as a party or opposition at large should have proper mechanisms of dealing with issues such as fielding of candidates. Going forward, it is also key for the UDC to be guided by its Constitution in dealing with issues,” he advised.