Political attention might be focused on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the response by the leader of the opposition, but elsewhere questions are being asked if the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will remain intact.
Sources within the alliance have expressed fear that though there were minor cracks ahead of the highly contested 2014 elections, they are now threatening its unity. Cracks started to show when UDC president Duma Boko announced that he will accept the 2019 general elections results alleging that there have been widespread rigging while his deputy, Dumelang Saleshando accepted the results though admitting they might have been some irregularities. “There were glaring discrepancies and irregularities that in our considered view have brought about fraudulent results and we find ourselves at pains to accept as true, correct and fair,” reads a statement released by the party on the 27thOctober 2019.
Boko cautioned that UDC will protest 15 constituencies, which clearly show that there had been some rigging. He promised that they will file the cases with the High Court before the provided 30 days elapses. On the other hand Saleshando whose party increased has called on the nation to move on during his response to the state of the Nation. Instead of boldly stating that the UDC will challenge some of the results in the courts of law, the LOO just called on the nation to be patient with those who are challenging the results. “I therefore appeal to the nation to be patient with those who may choose to exercise their right to file election petitions,” he said.
Botswana National Front (BNF) activists are alleged to feel that Saleshando failed to use the opportunity to tell Batswana that the UDC coalition is petitioning the election results. “Mr Speaker, even as we lament the conduct and integrity of the 2019 elections, we recognize that a government has been constituted, legislators have been sworn in, and the business of improving the lives of our people cannot wait one minute,” Saleshando said instead, in his response to the SONA.
In a statement released through his official Facebook page Boko dismissed those who want him and others to accept the results and move on. “When they choose mock politeness and fake modesty, I choose a radical solemnity that shatters all the boundaries of decorum and pushes the limits of style, to breaking point. I choose to hold fast to hope in the face of hate and hypocrisy and I resist falling into the nihilism of paralyzing despair,” he wrote.
Political commentator Keaoleboga Dipogiso -a known anti-Boko political activist- observes that the statement by Saleshando shows that there was no consensus regarding the petition of elections. “The posture of Saleshando when he attended the inauguration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi clearly showed that they were comfortable with the status quo,” he observed.
Boko addresses MPs
Since the general elections, UDC President Boko has taken a break from public space and missed on the inauguration of President Masisi, SONA and its response by his deputy something that is not sitting well with some within the party.
Recently Boko addressed UDC parliamentarians and encouraged them to do their job diligently. There are those within the UDC who call on Boko to stick to his promise that should UDC not retain power in 2019 he will resign while the other camp want him to stay put. Some UDC Members of Parliament have sworn allegiance to Boko arguing that he sacrificed a lot to ensure that they perform well in the elections. Political Commentator Dipogiso deposited that the love/hate relationship between BCP and BNF will always be there. “Coalitions depend on the strength of a contracting partners and BCP’s voice is going to be more pronounced as they are now the majority within the UDC,” noted Dipogiso.
According to Dipogiso it is not going to be surprising for the BCP to now want to claim the leadership of the UDC as they have numbers.
The North/South debacle
During their press briefing recently Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) lamented that the BDP used the tribalistic line to campaign hence most people in the south voted for the party.
The BPF President Biggie Butale said that it was clear that constituencies like Moshupa-Manyana, Ramotswa, Kanye and Tlokweng were voting along tribal lines and ensuring that they vote for Masisi because he is from the southern part of the country.
Saleshando dismissed the allegations with contempt and said that it must not be given currency. “Some commentators have accused the south of voting along tribal lines to defend a southerner in the State House. This accusation, in my view is unfortunate and should not be permitted to gain currency. Gaborone, a highly cosmopolitan area and home to many Batswana of different tribal identities, is part and parcel of the south. A number of Batswana like me are both southerners and northerners and will not condone the them versus us politics,” he said.
The Khama factor
Ahead of the 2019 elections former President Ian Khama was helping UDC in some constituencies in order to wrestle power from the BDP. Though this received some sharp criticism from some quarters the UDC leadership led by President Boko indicated that Khama is helping them to wrestle power from the BDP due to his popularity and appeal to the majority.
Though he addressed a political rally in Sefhare with Khama, UDC Vice president always made it clear that after assuming power after October 2019 they are going to prosecute Khama and President Mokgweetsi Masisi. During his response to the SONA, Saleshando sharply differed with his colleagues at UDC saying their poor performance especially in the Southern part of the country was due to their association with Khama.
“Some voters cast their votes, not on account of the manifesto messages, but chose to use the vote as a shield against the imagined return of Khama. It escapes my mind to imagine how Khama could possibly return to govern after 2019 when he was not contesting any election. The anti-Khama sentiment was strongest in the south of Botswana, leading to the electoral fortunes of the BDP improving in areas previously hostile to it,” he revealed in parliament throwing through the window the rigging allegations.
Dipogiso said that the turning point for most of the voters especially in the south is the Serowe Show ground meeting held in May this year when Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) was conceived and announced that it will form coalition with UDC because it is led by someone from the central district.
“Remember there was an old woman who stated that Khama made a mistake of taking the Ngwato privilege and handing it over to Mokgatla, meaning Masisi and that they will take back that privilege and give it to someone from central, that alone made people resent the UDC,” he said.
On the issue of Khama trying to come back to power, Dipogiso said that Khama has never shown interest of leaving power as shown by his relentless company against the BDP. “He has some interest that needs to be protected and exhibits some reactance because he was realizing that privileges he used to enjoy were eroding,” he observed.