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Never before has the road to a General Election been as muddy, mucky and murky as one leading to 2019. The political landscape within both the ruling party and opposition ranks is one that is dominated by mistrust, dishonesty, conniving, backstabbing and general instability lack of resolute and hard-nosed leadership decisions on the matters. It is the scenario that I wish to reflect on in this week’s input.
There has been turmoil and instability within various political parties prior to almost all past national elections, but never before had both the ruling party and opposition parties been equally entrenched in issues and matters that strengthen the stability of both, albeit in different ways and proportions. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is facing instability not only on account of the usual disgruntlements purely coming from the Bulela Ditswe process, but also telling are two main developments widely reported in the media. Firstly, is the discovery that the voters’ rolls for the primary elections were seemingly hacked and compromised with the intention of manipulating the results of the primary elections to favour certain candidates. Whilst it has not been openly revealed as to who stood to benefit from the hacking, it is clear that this was to benefit one faction over the other and surely it was not going to be a random based manipulation. This suggests the existence of soon to be defined factions which seek to position themselves for the control of the party post 2019.
It is this development that has created suspicions and mistrust among democrats who while alive to possible factional tensions, it is still muddy and mucky as to who belongs to which faction although it would seem clear that one faction is rallying behind the new party leadership. It is yet to crystalize as to who are the real leaders of the other faction although suspicions are already doing the rounds that former party and country president could have a hand in this other faction. It is this suspicions that seem to be logically linked to the second source of the instability facing the BDP and this is there seemingly growing tensions between the former president of the country and the new presidency on a number of issues. Never in the past had there been such acrimonious relations between the departing president and the incumbent to the degree and levels we are witnessing now and this has spiralled beyond administrative practices and protocols with the civil service to potential party politics with potential to worsen factional wars.
There has been immense pressure and tension emerging from the former president’s visits and utterances at some occasions, especially where he is seen to be advancing and giving political mileage to some Bulela Ditswe candidates against those already in position as members of parliament and/or cabinet ministers. This has rubbed the party the wrong way as sinister motives and imputed and seemingly there is a view that the former president is peddling divisive politics within the party and even allegations of him violating party procedures and protocols. These two and a few other related issues has created huge rifts within the BDP and this will hurt their campaign strategies for 2019. It is out there as to how they will eventually handle and manage these issues for an amicable resolution.
As if not to be outdone the opposition side has also seen very intense political gimmicking and porcupine manoeuvres by some, especially within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). These include among others the impasse over membership of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the legal status of the past congress and legal standing of resolutions adopted at same congress and more pronounced now is the resultant status of the new constitution adopted at that congress. These issues and other related have led to a visible split within the UDC, with the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the BCP seemingly on the same page on how the UDC project should progress and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the Botswana Peoples Party on the other side with a different view point on these matters. These developments have led to the submission of the amended constitution to the Registrar of Societies by the BNF/BCP axis and a rebuttal by the BMD/BPP axis on the legality of such a process. This debacle is further complicated by the recent decision of the Registrar of Societies to rule that acceptance of the newly submitted constitution is not only outside their mandate but also that the UDC is not a political party as per their interpretation of the statutes governing their operations.
It has since been a cat and mouse chase between the UDC contracting partners with a lot of deepening tensions, mistrust and suspicions on what are the intensions of the two factions. The UDC leadership just like their counterparts at BDP, have this mammoth impediment confronting them and the greatest challenge is how to resolve this matters and start concentrating on a focused campaign strategy with less distractions. It is very evident that if the current impasse continues with no compromises from any axis and the now intense entrenchment of dishonesty and disregard for political realities on the ground, the UDC will likely breakdown. This will of course require an accelerated consolidation of political willingness and strategies to catch up in the campaign train.
The sooner both caps deal and resolve the destabilising matters, the better for them so that they can begin to tell the electorates what they offer in the post 2019 period. It is more critical for both to find solutions that would have less negativity on their integrity and political pedigree because clearly for any of the two to lose more time and fail to stabilize, the electorates will speak and loudly so. The greatest danger is to have the two camps go into 2019 still paralyzed by these tensions and mucky developments, because then it gives electorates unwelcome choices and the democratic dispensation would have been greatly compromised. It is in the interest of democracy and good governance practices that electorates are given credible choices and hope for long term stability of a government they elect into power. The current bickering within both the ruling party and opposition ranks is recipe for disastrous electoral choices. They need to sort themselves out and urgently so.
*Dan Molaodi teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana