Brace yourselves for catastrophically low voter turnout – UDC chaos are to blame

04 Nov 2018

It is diffi cult to make sense of what to judge UDC on.

The party’s record is a buffet of contradictions; in 2014 it rode on the coattails of public sympathy created by the tragic death of its key leader to literally rise from the dead and claim close to twenty constituencies, before clumsily shedding yet another one of its core leaders – Ndaba Gaolathe, the architectural glue that had hitherto bound the edifi ce together; that was not before it admitted its erstwhile nemesis, the Botswana Congress Party with fanfare; not long thereafter the new entrant was accused of not only bearing instability but also having its membership bonafi des forcefully questioned .

Especially since after 2014, the Umbrella for Democratic Change has never really cared to cultivate a squeaky clean public image.

Ethically, at best the party has been dodgy, and at worst outright checkered.

Politically the UDC has been unprincipled and even rudderless.

To its detractors, where the party has not inspired confi dence, then it has been a lightning rod of controversy – and with that self-inflicted chaos.

In short the last four years saw the UDC squander a lot of its goodwill.

Things seemed to come to a head after the admission of the Botswana Congress Party.

Skeptics are adamant that since the arrival of BCP, the UDC has become nothing but damaged goods – a poisoned chalice.

We will not have to wait for too long before we are able to tell if BCP has been a liability or an asset.

What is however not in doubt is the fact that its admission will most likely haunt the UDC until the elections day. With the sure footedness of 2014 gone there is no shortage of either uncertainty or anxiety inside the UDC.

The UDC’s recent decision to expel the Botswana Movement for Democracy has for many been viewed as shockingly bold and for others, typically inept.

Anecdotal evidence hints at the fact that the dispute between UDC and BMD will last no less than twelve months, by which time the general elections would be already upon us.

BMD is in no hurry to resolve the dispute, least of all amicably.

Instead the party has stated forcefully that they will be going to court to challenge their expulsion, but not any time soon. They are buying time and also dragging their feet.

But even then, it is clear from various statements made by BMD leadership that their strategy goes way beyond legalities.

The core of their strategy is political.

And they want to inflict maximum damage.

They are questioning the credibility of the UDC, including casting doubts over whether or not UDC really exists.

“Duma Boko is not the president of the UDC,” the BMD leader Sidney Pilane said recently.

It was a simple but subtly loaded statement.

Coming after a train smash decision by the Registrar of Societies not to register the UDC, this strategy by BMD is monumental, not by its legalistic potential, but rather by the lasting impressions and indeed doubts it will create on the voter about UDC.

Such statements have a potential to irritate and even turn off a potential voter of the UDC.

BMD feels deeply betrayed and even used. And they are of the view that if they are not a part of the UDC then nobody will be a part of the UDC.

Inevitably this has a huge potential to disrupt UDC preparations for elections.

There is another dimension to the diffi culties facing UDC.

Generally since the last elections in 2014, the UDC has underperformed – at both parliamentary and local government levels.

Performance has in no way matched expectations.

Some of the UDC members of parliament have often seemed at sea – either out of breath when it came to issues at hand or simply lethargic.

To make matters worse some of them have literally lost contact with their constituencies.

This has led to a groundswell of disillusionment among the voters.

At a local level many of their councilors have lacked discipline – both politically and organisationally.

The upshot of all the above is that the UDC has with time lost much of the credibility it enjoyed in 2014, failing even to take advantage of the chaos that had simultaneously engulfed the ruling party, first as a result of botched primary elections therein and then a phony paralysis that degenerated into a crisis as created by former president Ian Khama.

At top leadership trust defi cit remains a popular concern against the UDC.

Other than that, too many people have been immensely frustrated by a lack of coherence, not to mention a general dearth in integrity.

With all the euphoria and excitement gone, it was the non-politically allied, especially public servants who were among the fi rst to see through the faНade.

They have thus become the most disenchanted by the turn of events, not least a decision by UDC leadership to consort with Ian Khama.

Analysts agree that there is still some appetite for political change in Botswana, but that it might much longer than many of us had imagined after 2014 general elections.

There is also consensus that people have grown generally apprehensive of the UDC in power.

For many UDC enthusiasts and adherents, the decline of their movement is inexplicable.

Unable to account for it, they have as a result resorted to either denialism or blaming some of us in the media.

Conspiracy theories abound – some of us have either been captured or simply bought!

That should be the least of our concerns.

The biggest problem to come from the UDC implosion is national and is starting to play out right before our very eyes.

Few people are turning up to register for elections.

Potential voters are angry that once again they have been sold a dummy, that their revolution has been hijacked by political princes.

The likelihood is that even fewer people will turn up to vote next year.

We are right on the throes of what is possibly the worst voter apathy precipice since the first General Elections in 1965; political catastrophe is upon us.

Rather than scouring and flapping around for scapegoats, the UDC, especially its leaders should be big enough to admit their share of the blame.

They have squandered a peoples’ revolution. And there will be a p[rice to pay.