The BMD Wars…Should UDC Intervene?

10 Aug 2017

The aftermath of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) congress (or is it congresses) in Bobonong has seen a lot of debates, opinions and predictions of are the issues, who is to blame, what it means for both the BMD and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), in both the short and long term. I just want to add take on some issues that are central to both the initial impasse before the congress and in the aftermath of the congress that produced two parallel BMD National Executive Committees (NECs).

First is the legality issue that has been debated in public, media and within the BMD itself. There has been arguments as to who has the legal mandate to run the BMD between the two factions and my point here is not to pronounce necessarily on that but to simple argue that; constitutions of organizations are a guide to action by all and ordinarily the same constitution guides members as to what can, should be done in the event operationalization of the same constitution by those entrusted with authority becomes problematic, especially when members, as individuals or groups within the organization act in a manner that suggests there are issues beyond the legality of actions and authority that could be the reason for polarization of thoughts, actions and delivery; secondly, in this modern democratic world most constitutions would vest the ultimate authority and power on the general membership to provide the final word on what needs to be done under situations such as the BMD faced.

It is the processes, procedures and regulations that are themselves constitutional extensions, that must now effect to actualize and ensure the rights and obligations of the supreme decision makers are given a chance to flow and resolve organizational impasse such as that of the BMD. Ordinarily organizations would often have to contend with other factors that may account for the impasse or polarization of action and resolve. At the core of ensuring this processes and procedures to unfold and guide the organization, is honesty amongst those at the centre of the impasse and recognition and acceptance that as leaders and various formations within the party, been elected and entrusted within constitutional authority and power does not make any the locus and focus of organizational power. The general membership and those that elected you and entrusted any degree of authority and power remain the actual owners of that authority and power and when things stall and reach a deadlock, it’s them who must redefine organizational legalities and redistribute or provide new directions.

The BMD NEC members postulated a divided outlook of the necessity to unravel their differences and through ensuring that the membership was brought on board quicker to map the party’s way forward and if need be define their own terms of how to legally correct the impasse that was within the NEC. With all avenues in the form of procedures, processes, and guides to enlist the wisdom of the general membership closed, the Bobonong events were pre-determined. I did mention before the Bobonong congress that, one of the likely outcomes of the congress would be further polarization of the warring factions and that is exactly what emerged. It was not only polarization of actions, thoughts and thinking but it was a mini-war of some sort that left others injured and resulted in two parallel congresses and two parallel NECs.

This continued impasse is clearly eroding the public trust on not only the BMD as party but inevitably it also has negative ramifications for the UDC as a larger project with a BMD party that is a part of the project. The structural intentions and formations of the UDC have responsibilities for the BMD and that there are currently two parallel BMDs will not be helpful to UDC and has the potential to further paralyze opposition unity. The obvious challenge for the UDC is how to intervene and look for an amicable solution that could possibly bring the warring factions together. This requires very delicate and skilful intervention avenues, postulations and establishing a conflict resolution organ, mechanism or entity that would approach the issues as purely neutral (assuming this is possible) and create an environment where the two NECs ultimately agree that the solution to the impasse lies with a joint meeting of followers of the two NECs and only they can jointly dialogue and democratically provide a legal guide as to who leads the BMD and what authority and powers do they possess going forward. 

I am inclined from the argument, to agree with those who say the UDC must intervene and seek to bring the two factions together and ultimately ensure that the broader BMD membership provide the answer to who should be legitimate leaders of the movement. It should be a solution that does not have the interest of any particular faction at heart, but one that entrenches the democratic right of members as a collective, not as factional members or followers. I am still convinced that if the UDC can muster its “mediative” skills and competencies and stay above the factional differences and preferences, the constitutional processes and procedures of the BMD can be invoked to bring a long term solution to the current impasse. This will require a high degree of honesty and resolve to relinquish power and authority, by leaders in both NECs, if that is what is necessary to reconcile the general membership and allow it to assume ownership and control of the BMD. The BMD as a party is not for this or that leader, no individuals in both NECs possess any more legitimate claim to the party than the majority.

In my view therefore, in the midst of the stone throwing and unleashing of dogs and security personnel to each other, when processes are put in place and procedures established for the general membership to constitutionally act, the BMD saga will be decidedly resolved and constitutional dictates will take clearer supremacy. It is for this reason that I think the UDC should consciously and deliberately begin to find a way to resolve the BMD saga, but it must do so with utmost resolve for its own integrity and honesty in resolving the matter. In the long term the UDC has either more to lose or gain depending on when and how the BMD problem is resolved.         

*Dan Molaodi teaches Public administration at the University of Botswana