Former AP MP who walked away claims party not walking its talk

05 Mar 2019

The Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, who retraced his steps to the Umbrella for Democratic Change on Thursday is claiming that while it talks a really good game, the Alliance for Progressives is actually playing a bad one.

“The party portrays itself as having a good value system but some of its members don’t live up to those values,” the MP says.

As one example of that double standard, he says that the AP’s official position was that it would only rejoin the UDC collective if the President of the Botswana Movement for Democracy, Sidney Pilane, was no longer part of it.

“After Pilane got out, the party changed position to say that it can’t be part of a movement led by Duma Boko,” he says, referring to the leader of both the Botswana National Front and UDC. “That is very confusing to some of us. While the party preaches opposition unity, it is not taking active steps to join forces with other opposition parties. You can’t be for opposition unity when you are simultaneously fielding candidates in constituencies where other opposition parties already have candidates.”

In elaborating the latter point, Nkaigwa says that the AP miscalculated by fielding a parliamentary candidate in Nkange constituency when it should have supported an opposition colleague (Botswana Congress Party’s Dr. Never Tshabang) who stands a better of winning and was a great pillar of support for AP in its previous life as BMD. AP was formed by members who broke away from BMD. Nkaigwa believes that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has a very good chance of winning the Nkange constituency on the back of a split opposition vote.

“We need each other as opposition parties,” says the MP, pausing to quote a Setswana proverb that stresses the importance of unity - moroto wa esi ga o ele. “People in my constituency, whom I have had a close and cordial working relationship with, also recognise the importance of such unity and have been lobbying me to go back to the UDC.”

He identifies those people as “loyal” BNF cadres, some of whom were part of his campaign team during the 2014 general election. He says that these cadres have been paying him visits in “large numbers” to lure him back.

“I also have a good working relationship with BCP councillors who have also been lobbying me to go back to the UDC. On the whole, my decision is on accordance with the will of the people,” Nkaigwa says.

The other volley he lobs at AP is that while the party took a conscious decision to put together a span of quality candidates that subscribe to the party’s values, it is doing the opposite of that. What he describes is what one might, in contrast to the ruling party bulela-di-tswe arrangement, term a “bulela-di-tsene” (free for all) melee. By his account, outsiders are doing little more than show up the party’s office, convince the Secretary General that they can carry of constituencies and shortly thereafter, are anointed candidates.

“That is done regardless of whether that person subscribes to the party’s values or not,” Nkaigwa says.

With his knowledge of Botswana politics as well as his experiences at AP, Nkaigwa doesn’t hold out much hope for the party in the upcoming general election.  

“The fact of the matter is that it is a new party and Botswana voters tend to be skeptical of new parties,” he says, citing the party’s performance in last year’s Ralekgetho Ward bye-elections in the Moshupa-Manyana constituency where the party came last, getting only 45 votes. “People welcomed us into their homes, listened to what we had to say and really seemed receptive to our message. However, they didn’t vote for us.”

Nkaigwa says that he is decamping with the AP’s council candidates for Sebele and Marang Tsholofelo East wards, the chairperson of the Gaborone North constituency and some other constituency committee members as well as his entire campaign team for this general election.