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A tall, bouncy grey-haired old man with a strikingly high bout of self-confidence walks to meet us as our car pulls off.
He has been waiting for a while. And his impatience shows as he takes me by the hand.
“Let’s go and sit that side monna Spencer,” he says even before we can exchange any pleasantries. The scene is a pizzeria outlet by the corner of the mall.
For someone who says he has never seen the inside of a classroom, Kabelo Molefhe comes across as polished, intellectually robust and politically savvy.
He is up-to-date on events, highly informed and has an unusually sharp historical context. He ascribes all these to reading and watching television.
When we meet him for an interview at a Molepolole shopping centre, the man is on his element.
He is clad in a purple shirt, the colours of a new party recently created when Ndaba Gaolathe decided to break away from the Botswana Movement for Democracy.
Molefhe’s loyalty to Gaolathe borders on worship. And he makes no apology for it!
When it comes to defending Gaolathe his fearlessness takes new heights.
He is happy to shower Gaolathe with all accolades, because by him the man has earned his stripes.
His explanation of Gaolathe’s appeal and public approval is simple.
“Here is a man who has been to the best schools in the world, who has had such a privileged upbringing yet who listens to everybody including to me when I am so poor and have never been to a school in my life,” is the way Molefhe starts our interview with him, making it clear from the onset this country should consider itself lucky that when everybody is running after money, there are people like Gaolathe who are willing to forgo the privileges of their upbringing to help all Batswana.
These “sacrifices” by Gaolathe are to become a recurring feature in Molefhe’s prognosis of Botswana’s current political climate, especially the hiatus that the opposition movement is going through.
Molefhe’s analysis of the situation that the Umbrella for Democratic Change finds itself is simple; money and the lure of power.
That love for money, we soon find out is a recurring theme in the interview.
He says money is a scourge that contaminated what started as a promising opposition renaissance in Botswana.
Instead of working hard, says Molefhe, UDC leaders started to imagine themselves already in power and dreaming what life they will have once in that power.
This scares him to a hilt. He says at the moment he is not able to see any difference between the leaders of the Botswana Democratic Party and those of the UDC.
“UDC leaders have lately been in the news for all the wrong reasons. That saddens me. We cannot remove the BDP and replace them with people who are worse,” he says hitting the table as he starts scouring over his chicken and mushroom pizza that he takes with an orange juice.
What will become the Alliance for Progressives since the political market is said to be saturated? We ask him.
It is a question he answers with clear excitement.
“Let me start by telling you that we have left BMD. I and Pilane have not agreed on many things. He has even gone on radio to call be a cattle-thief that should have long gone to jail. I have no problem with that because I have never stolen a thing in my life. But unlike him to me I want to be fair to him. Pilane’s rightful position is UDC first Vice president. There is absolutely no reason why UDC can stop him. The only party in opposition today where activists are happy and working hard is AP. This purple movement will shock many people in the next General Elections. Just wait,” he says with a fast frequency that underlines his vehement attachment to a party that was formed barely two weeks ago.
As a member of the AP interim executive, Molefhe says it is unlikely that the new party will be running back to re-join UDC.
“I speak for myself, not for AP. But I think our priority right now should be to launch our party. Build structures and allow UDC to do their things. I think even in his speech our leader made it clear that UDC is no longer our priority. After-all they have their own issues. Just tell me who is happy inside the UDC? The conveners are crying, BPP is totally unhappy, BNF followers feel hard-done. I do not want to talk about BCP because I am not sure if they are really members of the UDC.”
He is adamant that it is the UDC verdict on BMD crisis that led to the formation of the AP.
“Some people are saying the AP was formed before the verdict. The truth is that we had prepared ourselves for any eventuality. We were willing to hear them [UDC] out. But when it emerged we had lost the case. So we moved out.”
Off his head he narrates the most salient points in the UDC verdict that left Gaolathe’s followers without an option but to leave the BMD; the verdict said the Youth Congress in Ramotswa was null and void; the verdict said Gaolathe should accept Pilane as a member in good standing; The verdict said Matshekge was the rightful venue for the Congress; the verdict said there should be power sharing.
“By all intents and purposes the verdict gave Pilane much more than he could have hoped for. Even Gilbert Mangole went on radio and said his side has won. He was right. We were hoping for a re-run. We did not get that. And we have accepted that and moved on to create AP. UDC cannot now turnaround and try to deny Pilane a seat,” says Molefhe.
He says during the verdict, the UDC president never said he does not recognise Pilane. “Why say it now? If Boko wants to be taken seriously he must be consistent. Because there is no longer any tension for BMD leadership, UDC should say why Pilane is not rightfully a Vice President of the UDC. Pilane has the backing of the constitution,” says Molefhe.
On the future of UDC, Molefhe says the party is likely to die.
“The leader is not accountable. He does not even want to answer to his own BNF. UDC was created as national project. Now some people have turned it into a friendship.
“Today we see only two parties making decisions at UDC. Do they form a quorum? What criteria are being used? It is not clear to me if BPP and BMD are under suspension. If UDC is to survive these issues need to be addressed. UDC now looks more and more like the BDP. It’s a one-man-show,” says Molefhe.