UDC on political edge, BDP boils from within

26 Jul 2018

UDC’s major contracting partners, Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) have just emerged out of their conferences determined to kick out Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) out of the opposition umbrella coalition dubbed the ‘peoples project’.

If push comes to shove, and the UDC impasse is not resolved, the two political formations intend to negotiate bilateral arrangements to usher them into the 2019 general election.  

Political and social commentators and the main opposition parties’ foot soldiers are adamant that with the Sydney Pilane led BMD still remaining inside the umbrella project, it is destined for catastrophic failure and doom, in its bid to dethrone the ruling BDP in the 2019 general election.

One opposition foot soldier puts it aptly, “as long as we have BMD in our midst, we honestly should never dream of attaining state power, now or in the future”. His view is bolstered by the ongoing saga in which BMD president Pilane is contesting that the new UDC constitution signed by Advocate Duma Boko (BNF president) and Dumelang Saleshando is not authentic, and is not the appropriate one that should have been submitted to the Registrar of Societies.

Pilane is also on record submitting that he along with his compatriot, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) president Motlatsi Molapisi, have already notified the Registrar of Societies about the irregularities of the submitted constitution and are as such seeking its withdrawal.

Joining the fray, another lawyer and leading BCP activist Morgan Moseki in a piece published in the Sunday Standard posits that “without a decisive leadership, UDC future is bleak”. In the piece, Moseki accuses Pilane of using his current position of BMD president to cause a stir and “do what he would have done if he were president of BMD during the negotiations”, which allowed BCP entry into umbrella coalition.

Of note according Moseki is the fact Pilane was part and parcel of the February 2018 UDC congress proceedings in Gaborone which agreed amongst other things, the drafting of a new constitution whose final arbiters on the negotiating process were UDC president Duma Boko and BCP president Dumelang Saleshando.

“It is therefore safe to say the process should be deemed closed and or sealed with the signatures of both arbiters and no other leader. Any other leader claiming to have been overlooked when the final draft was submitted is a time waster. It shall be recalled that the negotiations were between the UDC on one hand and the BCP on the other.

“At the time Rre Pilane’s role was that of a stream member with three or so other lawyers. He was not president of the BMD. Should his version be accepted all other stream members may do the same”, warns Moseki.

Moseki futher submits that during the negotiations they were informed that the old UDC NEC comprising the BMD, BNF, and BPP met and suspended the old UDC constitution except the one clause – the transitional clause to admit the BCP.

The BCP activist says Pilane’s reasoning seems to be anchored on the fact that the February 2018 constitutional resolutions to which he and his party had 117 delegates should and cannot be taken into the final document, yet he never objected during the process. Congress had resolved that must have been registered by May 2018 followed by leadership elections before the end of July 2018.

He said his view is that the constitution submitted by Boko and Saleshando to the Registrar of Societies for amendment was the final document concluding the 2016 negotiations between the old UDC and the BCP, which among other things, allocated constituencies to the four parties making up the UDC.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen how the UDC will resolve the impasse.

On the other side of the political aisle at the BDP front, it does not look on the surface smooth sailing especially given the acrimony between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor, Ian Khama.

Aware of the hostility, the BDP recently announced that on the back of the many contenders for political office at both parliament and council wards in the remaining 39 constituencies, the party devised a mechanism that entailed subjecting all contenders to fill an affidavit, loyalty pledge of sorts, to ensure that embittered losers do not de-campaign the winners and the party in general, including electing to stand as independents as has happened in the past particularly in 2013 when unprecedented number of independents registered for elections.

There is a conspiracy theory doing rounds that since the remaining 39 constituencies are mostly based north of Dibete, the Khama trump card may come into play since there is a feeling that Masisi has been on the rampage, dismantling the Khama legacy, and even embarrassing him, both locally and on the international scene.

This conspiracy theory is also supported by yet another story in Sunday Standard alluding to the fact there is a cabal within the BDP hell bent on toppling Masisi from presidency ahead of the 2019 general election. It is reported that Masisi, unlike his predecessors has not enjoyed the figurative honey moon because his legislative and policy agenda has put him on a collision path with very powerful people, some of them high ranking BDP figures.

Part of that agenda is reportedly an anti-corruption crusade that threatens to imperil the comfort of people who, for decades, have never had to worry about being hauled over the coals for their criminality, notably the looting of public funds.

The worst fear of the anti-Masisi BDP cabal is that if Masisi gets an electoral mandate, dockets that have gathered layers of dust at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime will be dusted off and acted on. The sums of stolen money involved necessarily means that some of the culprits will definitely go to prison.

According to the Sunday Standard article, it has now become common knowledge that, under the guise of engaging in legitimate intra-party opposition, the culprits are working tirelessly behind the scenes to either end Masisi’s presidency at the very earliest opportunity or replace him as a presidential candidate ahead of the 2019 general election.

Emerging reports further suggest that despite immense public resources at his disposal, Masisi could be in for a hiding as this cabal is said to be awash with cash. The report alleges that this is the public money that was looted over the past decade through the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services.

However, aware of the plot, Masisi is understood to have swiftly moved in the just ended session of  parliament to successfully erect hurdles that will make it extremely difficult to use the loot. Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi brought a spate of anti-money laundering with retrospective effect under a certificate of urgency.

All said and done, with the current political climate, it is not far-fetched to conclude that keeping the incumbent party in power may be difficult to bear, but hope that the opposition (in its current disarray) will bring change may also be misplaced.