AP edges a notch up, as BDP and UDC politically dither

14 Feb 2019

BY JOSEPH BALISE

Without the political euphoria that usually engulfs the Botswana political landscape ahead of any upcoming general election, the Alliance for Progressives is currently the undoubtedly most stable and well organized political outfit in the country.

While the ruling BDP is deeply immersed in the unending feud between the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama, the UDC is on the other end busy embroiled in a legal tussle initiated by BMD’s Sidney Pilane which was expelled from the umbrella opposition coalition.

Subsequent to its expulsion, the BMD challenged the legal validity and asked the courts to adjudicate over their expulsion. When political and social pundits had anticipated BMD to institute an urgent application to resolve the impasse, BMD did not and instead chose to go the normal court route which usually takes very long before cases are heard and concluded.

It is currently unknown when the case will be heard and fears abound that the BMD may have deliberately opted for the normal court process to take its course so that on the eve of the elections, they institute an urgent application interdicting the UDC from using the umbrella symbol.

In the event the UDC is legally restrained from using the umbrella coalition symbol for the general election, it may  as well take some time on what the constituent parties forming the UDC would to salvage its reputation and still manage to score big in the general election.

Sources close to the BMD intimate that their party strategically opted to go the normal court route so that the umbrella coalition project is distracted from launching early campaigns and preparing sufficiently for the upcoming general election as the hovering uncertainty’s impact will remain unknown unless and until the legal impasse has been resolved.

Further, the losing party in the case may still appeal and that process on its own will have a serious bearing on how the umbrella coalition, dubbed the people’s project, would go about the distraction and still retain the public goodwill that it enjoyed in the previous general election.

As if the BMD case is not enough recipe for disaster, the two major parties in the umbrella project (Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are currently at each other’s throats regarding the allocation of some erstwhile BMD allocated constituencies.

Reports coming out as early as last week indicate that BNF is dissatisfied with the BCP overtures in announcing a candidate for the Gaborone Central constituency while the parties are still engaged in bilateral talks over the rightful candidate to contest the constituency.

In a BNF letter head, the BNF’s Gaborone Central constituency Committee on February 9th issued a public statement condemning the BCP’s announcement of Dr Mpho Pheko as the UDC candidate for the constituency.

In the hard hitting letter in which the BNF even threatened to pull out of the bilateral talks regarding the constituency allocation talks, the BNF expressed its “shock and disappointment at the Machiavellia and underhand tactics employed by the BCP or its operatives in Gaborone Central. As the BNF, we note the article circulating on social media under the hand of Jackson Koko of the BCPYL which purports to announce the candidacy of one Dr Mpho Pheko as the UDC candidate for Gaborone Central.

“We wish to put it on record that and categorically denounce such a false announcement which seeks to confuse UDC members and the general public. Further, as the BNF constituency committee, we view and treat such an announcement as that of the BCP in the absence of any rebuttal or clarification from the BCP leadership. The announcement of Dr Pheko as the UDC candidate is erroneous and false,” states the BNF media statement.

The BNF media statement explains that the BCP and BNF constituency committees currently engaged in bilateral negotiations to identify a suitable candidate for Gaborone Central.

The media release explains that on 7th February, the constituency committees of both parties met at Tsholofelo hall to initiate negotiations on the sensitive and serious matter and it had been agreed at the said meeting that a follow up meeting will be held on the 14th February to continue the bilateral discussions.

The BNF Gaborone Central Committee then resolved that as the BCP had adulterated all tenets of good faith which are necessary in any negotiation process and cautioned the BCP that “we will not succumb to its bullying tendencies of imposing a candidate on us without due process”.

The media release further states that the BNF has withdrawn from the bilateral meetings with immediate effect as the committee will not engage in a  negotiation process with a party which undermines the process such impunity.

Information coming out recently in the media was that the UDC had not yet fielded candidates in at least nine winnable constituencies. This buttresses the rate of unpreparedness within the umbrella project to go into the general election as well oil opposition machine prepared to oust the ruling BDP at the ballot.

While the UDC is engaged in its own internal problems, the BDP on the other hand not at peace with itself since Mokgweetsi Masisi’s ascendance to the president, a fact which was acknowledged by Masisi in his maiden State of the Nation Address where he publicly declared that the transition from power from predecessor Ian Khama on April 2019 has not been smooth.

That notwithstanding, Masisi explained that he had engaged party elders to help mediate in the ensuing rift between himself and his predecessor Ian Khama. However, efforts by the reconciliation have not yet borne fruit with the emergence of a faction dubbed New Jerusalem in the BDP. As if that was not enough immediately after the emergence of the faction was reported in the various private media outlets, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi against established party practice went on record to announce that she will be challenging Masisi for the BDP presidency at the upcoming BDP elective general congress.

The New Jerusalem faction is understood to be currently traversing the width and breadth of the country canvassing for support so that it wins all elective positions on congress day.

Fearing to be outdone, Masisi recently convened at retreat at Palapye which deliberated on the challenges his party is facing and information coming out from the retreat is that not much was achieved especially as Venson-Moitoi is in mean mood and unlikely to withdraw from the presidential race which will inevitably also distract the ruling party from mounting a solid early campaign.

While the two major political players in BDP and UDC are embroiled in endless strife and internal bickerings, a new kid on the opposition block the Alliance for Progressives has been busy readying itself for the herculean political task ahead.

The party recently launched its policy paper which analysts have hailed as very inspirational and economically illuminating, especially coming from a newly formed opposition party. The analysts are agreed that currently AP is the most stable political out fit in the country and as such poised to cause an unprecedented upset in the October general election given the challenges faced by both major political players.

Although others are still doubtful that the purple movement will cause any major upset, it is also dawning within some that if Batswana were politically conscientious enough, this would be most appropriate time to gauge all the major political parties and opt for a party that in its current form, however insignificant a player it may be regarded, should be given the chance to lead while the others resolve their internal wranglings.