Botswana’s political space is in serious political leadership vacuum. On one hand, there is the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) swimming in all manner of deficient and defective political leadership uprightness in order to steer this Republic in the right direction. The right direction amongst others is to provide affordable health care for the citizenry; create decent and sustainable jobs and job opportunities; reduce high and unacceptable inequalities. On the other, we have the official opposition in the National Assembly in the form of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) seriously consumed by high levels of egocentrism akin to schoolboy behaviour and conduct in the extreme. It is reported in one of the weekly newspapers that the UDC National Executive Committee meeting called for this weekend by its leader Advocate Duma Boko could fail to convene because one its members and leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Hon Dumelang Saleshando is unhappy because the meeting he had called early in the year was boycotted by the one who is calling the weekend meeting. This is a serious and unpardonable indictment on the senior UDC leadership if its belief that it is a government-in-waiting is anything to go by hence my argument that it is a club of friends in serious distress and confusion. As a consequence, the UDC project also becomes distressed and confused.
The cracks in the opposition stable particularly the UDC since its formation back in 2012 or so have been so palpable for everyone to see and nothing suggests the cracks will be filled with mortar anytime soon. Tensions in the UDC were cooled somewhat albeit temporarily by the decisive involvement and interventions of Rre Lebang Mpotokwane and Rre Emang Maphanyane back then. One thought the involvement of the two gentlemen as peace building emissaries whose objective was to bring cohesion in the UDC and by extension overall opposition would be a solid foundation in opposition politics going forward. As soon as they exited the scene under controversial circumstances if I may say so, the UDC developed further cracks which have proved to be fatal to this day. In the election cycles that followed their departure, the UDC has remained a political formation that is best described by the phrase ‘so near yet so far’ which I believe should be its new slogan. In these election cycles, the BDP was on its knees only waiting for the UDC to finish it off. But lo and behold, the UDC was to be the architect of its downfall and misfortune thereby providing the BDP with further lease of life.
I have argued before and still do so here and now that the UDC will find it hard if not impossible to unseat the BDP if it remains in the current configuration of different parties assuming their historical identities in the process. This has proved to be the biggest source of instability wherein they fight over issues like which party should represent a particular constituency or ward on the eve of a general election. The instability has in large measure created a serious trust deficit whose consequences have brought distress and confusion not only to the UDC leadership itself but to their supporters and sympathisers as well. While the political tension and I dare say the mistrust between the Adv Boko and Hon Saleshando has been downplayed for political convenience, it has since been confirmed by the Acting Secretary General of the BCP Hon Gobotswang Kesitegile who is quoted by The Midweek Sun newspaper dated June 2, 2021 to have said ‘I can confirm that there has been a bit of unreasonableness concerning lack of communication about our meetings…..’ Just how do the two most senior leaders of a big formation like the UDC miscommunicate about such an important party activity like preparing for a meeting? Mind you, these are the very persons who would have been the President and Vice President of this Republic had the UDC won in 2019 or better still are aspiring to become the same post the 2024 general election if they miraculously pull it off. It boggles the mind if you asked me.
At the heart of the mistrust between the two capable politicians it would seem in my view, is the lack of inner party democracy in which the UDC is failing to follow and implement the prescripts of its own Constitution. Ever since its formation, the UDC has failed to hold a fully-fledged elective national congress as provided for by Article 11 of the 2012 Constitution whereat political leadership from the President to the Deputy Secretary would be elected with key organisational decisions taken to make the organisation better and more appealing to all and sundry going forward. Issues like how the UDC should deal with the constituency and ward representation in general elections which are some of the downsides of the UDC, would be robustly debated and resolved. The UDC knows very well that should it resolve the issue, it stands a bigger chance at elections. Yet and strangely, it keeps on flip-flopping over it. Now when the UDC cannot hold a congress as provided for in its own Constitution to deal with challenges which for time immemorial have brought its own misfortunes, cracks are bound to emerge and intensify for as long as solutions thereto are not forthcoming. It is not in dispute that there are some in the UDC who believe and justifiably so, that a national congress should be held while there are some who believe the current status quo should prevail because the said congress could further rupture it. From where I stand, this is a case of someone fearing the unknown or better still, afraid of their own shadow. It is absurd!
The UDC performance in parliament is a direct contrast to what obtains outside. To be fair to it, the UDC is holding the BDP to account by exposing its shortcomings in more ways than one. One would therefore expect it to avail itself held accountable outside parliament by its own members because this would validate its legitimacy and credibility. But parliament does not elect the UDC into power but the grass root masses who disappointingly and fatally as things stand, are holding the short end of the stick. A club of friends would move the goal posts as and when it suits them. This is precisely what is happening. One side of the UDC is doing just that when it comes to letting its members elect their leaders while the other is comfortable with illegitimate leaders remaining at their posts. UDC is not with respect, some kind of a stokvel where at the end of year, the Treasurer claims she/he was robbed of the money.
With the clock moving fast towards the 2024 general election and with so many elections related matters still critically and crucially outstanding to be resolved, one would have expected the UDC to be finalising or to have finalised such matters. But it is busy biting its nails over triviality than substance. UDC official meetings I want to believe, are not matters of individual choice or preference but matters dictated to in the main, by the party’s Constitution. At the top of every UDC member’s mind should be to dethrone the BDP and install itself through the outcome of an election process. If the President cannot call meetings as it appears to be the norm, what do other executive members do to ensure that party activities are not scuppered by individual’s preferences and desires? There is a saying by Benjamin Franklin that ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. This saying sums up the body politic of the UDC since its formation about nine years ago to date. Egocentrism and self-preservation amongst others, appear to be the defining optics that have characterised the existence of the UDC particularly from the senior political leadership. Its either their way or the highway. While the BDP is also on its knees over poor leadership, it is given space by the UDC to shout, ‘There is still no alternative.’ UDC has become a club of friends in serious distress and confusion. Batswana deserve a better UDC and Adv Boko and Hon Saleshando can deliver it because they have the wherewithal to do so only if they put it first before everything else. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!
At the time of writing, over eight hundred people in Botswana had perished as a result of Covid-19 virus. Our fate is still in our hands to prevent more infections and fatalities by adhering to Covid-19 protocols as pronounced by the World Health Organisation.