Gilson Saleshando, father to Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president Dumelang, says the current bickering between the party and Botswana National Front (BNF) over Bophirima ward clearly shows that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is not ready to attain state power.
In an interview on Friday, the veteran politician said the fallout between the two UDC key parties is throwing prospects of the opposition to take over power in 2024 in jeopardy. He said the open lack of communication and respect amongst the leaders is killing the coalition.
“It is crystal clear that UDC leader Duma Boko and Dumelang cannot work well together. But at this time and point, it is important for these leaders to compromise and work together for the interest of delivering the opposition victory. It was so close and now they are spoiling it,” he added.
The former MP for Selibe Phikwe West also said the big brother mentality that is displayed the BNF towards other parties in the coalition should come to an end. He said the squabble over Bophirima Ward should have been avoided but the BNF made it complex. Saleshando likened the latest BNF and BCP UDC dispute to the war between Russia and Ukraine.
“The Bophirima Ward belongs to the BCP. In previous cases, the BCP compromised about two times in the wards that belonged to it and yielded them to the BNF. This was the third time and BCP felt enough is enough. What happens in UDC is a true reflection of the Russia and Ukraine war when one in Putin want not to listen to his brother Zelensky of Ukraine. The challenge in the UDC is that the other partner doesn’t want to listen to other partners at all,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Saleshando said his advice to the BCP is that it should never think of leaving the UDC. He said although the party wanted to send a message to the BNF over governance issues in the UDC coalition, the party should get back to the coalition after the by election and resolve issues.
“If I possessed some influence anyhow, I wouldn’t like to see the BCP running away from the UDC or any other party, which could lead to the collapse of the coalition. Strides made by the UDC should not be just thrown away. It is the hope for regime change despite the problems surrounding it. Parties under UDC just need to respect each other. It’s simple,” he said.
Political commentator, Frank Mogotsi said the UDC should tread carefully as its conflict is giving the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) an opportunity to benefit from vote splitting.
He said if BCP can taste victory in Bophirima Ward, it is likely to push the party to leave UDC. “Should BCP and UDC go separate ways in 2024 elections, the parties are likely to be the big losers due to vote splitting. The Bophirma ward by election could be used by both the UDC and BCP to test the waters if each party can afford a life without the other,” warned Mogotsi, adding that the BDP could win Bophirima ward taking advantage from the opposition split.
Former BCP president Gilson said he believes that a UDC congress can restore order in the coalition. He said the elective congress would allow UDC members to vote their preferred leadership. “The coalition politics is all about trust and proper governance. The UDC should have gone to an elective congress. At a time when we left the BNF to form the BCP it was due to lack of trust as the BNF president at a time Dr Kenneth Koma was holding the party at ransom,” said Saleshando.
The debate over a UDC elective congress has been a hot potato inside the coalition with parties holding different views. The BCP emphasized on the UDC to go for congress while BNF on the other hand is adamant that the coalition will elect new leadership once the parties have concluded talks with the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
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