Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana Alliance Movement have been bolstered by their impressive showing in the general elections to formalize their marriage of convenience into a formal merger.
Indications are that the two parties have for some time been toying around with the idea of merging, but after agreeing in principle, decided to wait until the general elections to chart the way forward for the proposed merger. BCP Secretary General Taolo Lucas said last week that the cooperation agreement between the two parties has increased their parliamentary and local government representation, eventually resulting in the party increasing its popular vote to up to 22%.
“Through our cooperation, we managed to snatch constituencies like Ngami, Okavango, Selibe Phikwe and Chobe from the clutches of the BDP. We have also increased our vote from 68 000 in 2004 to 120 000 in 2009,” revealed Lucas.
He added that the leadership of the two parties will soon meet to set the ground rules for the merger, which will then be passed on to the general membership for endorsement.
The BCP also reiterated its commitment to opposition cooperation, saying that they are alive to the fact that the opposition will face a tough task in unseating the ruling BDP if they do not work as one.
Taolo said that the BCP remains resolute in its belief that opposition parties must meet to discuss this issue as a matter of urgency. The BCP executive met after the general elections and agreed that they should make overtures to other opposition parties, including the Botswana National Front, to propose the initiation of talks geared at opposition cooperation.
“We have also agreed that we will liaise with other opposition parliamentary candidates, including the independent candidate Nehemiah Modubule, with a view to finding a common ground on which we can tackle parliamentary business. The same will be done at local government level,” he said.
Cooperation talks between the BNF, BPP, BAM and BCP failed even before they could start because all the parties could not agree on the model of cooperation to be used. In the end, acrimony and mudslinging became the order of the day as other parties accused the BNF of adopting a big brother attitude, while the BNF argued that a loose pact promotes regionalization of parties, ethnicity and tribalism.
In the end, the BAM and the BCP remained the only partners in the pact model, and they went on to put up a good showing in the recent general elections.
But it has become increasingly obvious to the opposition parties that they cannot topple the BDP without operating in unison. What is important is that they should learn from the mistakes that were made when the cooperation talks were initiated, and work to create a robust and united opposition that can, at the least, appeal to the electorate as an alternative government.