Thursday, September 28, 2023

Academics say Umbrella can never work

As the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) tries to have fresh talks with the Botswana National Front (BNF) to revive the Umbrella, academics see the exercise as futile.

Some academics insist an opposition pact is a better model than an Umbrella.

The opposition cooperation project collapsed late last year after the BMD and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) found themselves as strange bedfellows in a crowded political marriage of convenience. Even before the talks officially collapsed, some activists of negotiating parties predicted the project was destined to fail.

“Any multilateral initiative is bound to fail again. The more the BPP (Botswana Peoples Party) is forgotten the better. The BNF’s reasonable behaviour during the talks gives it a position of being one to do business with. Appearance of the BMD on the political scene has suddenly forced the BCP and the BNF to see sense of the long talked about need for cooperation between the two parties,” says Dr. John Makgala, a historian at the University of Botswana.

Dr. Kaelo Molefe of the Department of Politics and Administration Studies at the University of Botswana could only read a clash of egos as having led to the collapse of the talks. He said the fact that there was a cordial spirit of negotiation seen between the BCP and the BNF and the lack of it thereof between the BCP and the BMD is testimony to a clash of egos between the two parties. He observed that the BMD would find it easier to work with the BNF and the BPP only. Likewise, the BCP would find it easier to work with the BNF and the BPP only, he says.

Molefe says the maturity level of Botswana opposition parties is worrisome.

“The Umbrella was always going to end up with clashes. Post election alliances are easier than pre election ones. Pre election never happens in Africa like it does in developed countries. Here that [Umbrella] won’t work,” he says.

Molefe’s sentiments are shared by a political analyst Dr. Zibani Maundeni who says the collapsed Umbrella was no different from previous ones. He says any attempts to revive the Umbrella would come to naught.

“They can attempt to revive the Umbrella. How? I don’t know. We have a long history of an attempt to form Umbrella parties. None of them have ever been successful. They all collapsed either immediately after formation or later. There was nothing specifically different about this particular one to make it survive,” says Maundeni.

He offers that a pact of whatever nature allows political parties to retain their identities and can work better than an umbrella model.


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