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In a crucial election year, you would expect the president of the main opposition party to launch the candidacy of his/her deputy president but that is not what happened last weekend with the Botswana National Front.
Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, the Botswana National Front Vice President is running for the Molapowabojang-Mmathethe parliamentary seat and when his candidacy was launched last Saturday, the guest speaker was not BNF President, Duma Boko, but Dumelang Saleshando, the President of the Botswana Congress Party. Boko was himself hundreds of kilometres away in Selebi Phikwe to launch the candidacy of Dithapelo Keorapetse, who is seeking re-election as Selebi Phikwe West MP.
“Boko has no interest in Dibeela’s candidacy, sees Dibeela as a threat and has tried to isolate him,” says a highly-placed party source.
Alongside the Botswana People’s Party, BNF and BCP are part of the Umbrella Democratic Coalition, an opposition coalition which, for the first time since independence, has a realistic chance of wresting power away from the Botswana Democratic Party. On account of its numerical strength, BNF is the main UDC partner and it was on such basis that Boko came to assume the presidency of coalition. However, Boko is more at home in UDC than in the party that enabled him to be UDC president.
It is no secret that Boko and Dibeela don’t get along as well as that BNF structures are all but dead with the Central Committee not meeting on a regular basis. The Committee met for the first time in six months three weeks ago and Boko himself didn’t attend. It has two opposing camps: one led by Boko and the other by Dibeela. Oddly, despite being in the minority, Boko’s faction is more powerful than Dibeela’s, a fact those in the latter attribute to the party’s constitution concentrating a lot of power in the presidency. There have been instances when Boko has resisted calls to convene Central Committee meetings.
The two men also don’t see eye to eye on what relations UD should have with the former president, Ian Khama. Boko, who once described incumbent President Khama as a “demon” on the floor of parliament, now looks at the latter with new eyes and at one point referred to him as a “friend.” As a direct result of this friendship, Boko has brought UDC closer and closer to the Botswana Patriotic Front, a party which Khama founded earlier this year and is spiritual leader of. On the other hand, Dibeela has told The Botswana Guardian that BNF founder, Dr. Kenneth Koma, would “turn in his grave” if BNF was to establish any working relationship with Khama.
A plan, whose practical effect could be banishing Dibeela to the cold, has been mooted. For now, UDC is a loose coalition and it has been suggested that the three parties that make it up should be dissolved after next month’s elections. That would mean that leadership structures of the parties that make it up would themselves be dissolved. Having already established himself as part of UDC leadership and having burnished his personal brand, Boko would not be affected by this change. Dibeela would be. For now, that proposal has not been formally presented to BNF members.