Botswana Congress Party publicity chief, Taolo Lucas has allayed fears that the party leadership might be trying to influence the outcome of an ongoing internal debate that seeks to get the party to establish cooperation with the Umbrella for Democratic Change.
Last week the Party Leader, Dumelang Saleshando was widely quoted saying cooperation with UDC did not necessarily guarantee that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party would be defeated by the combined armour. In an interview, Lucas also said it was important to also not reduce the BCP to matters of cooperating with UDC as if there were no other policy issues to discuss.
Cooperation, Lucas said, was just one of the many issues that the party will engage with and ultimately decide at the elective congress scheduled for July. He dismissed insinuations that the BCP was a party in decline, arguing that statistics from last year’s General Elections told a totally different story. “We command close to forty percent of all opposition votes in the country. And that cannot be evidence of a dying party,” said Lucas. Starting in February BCP leadership will engage structures nationwide to get an indication of what could have accounted for the party’s poor performance at last year’s General Elections.
They only managed to get three parliamentary seats against UDC’s seventeen. According to Lucas there will also be an audit of structures to determine if on account of that poor showing some members might have not quietly withdrawn. “The issue of cooperation will feature. But if there is anything we will be sharing with the public it will be at the July Congress.
We remain convinced that our message was clear and appealing,” he said referring to their election pladges. No reasons have however been adduced to account for the poor performance, notwithstanding that “appealing” message. He conceded that based on the outcome of the elections, there will naturally be soul searching. He said the party was also aware of what he termed “opportunistic” defections.
This follows a spate of defections that recently rocked the party following disenchantment by some members that the leadership was not taking cooperation with UDC serious enough. “Defections are a constant feature of our politics,” said Lucas. Historically the BCP is one party that has more than any other benefitted most from defections happening in other parties.
Which is why the recent defections from within may be somewhat unsettling. And using its superior public relations machinery the party has often hyped, trumpeted and overplayed such defection receipts by giving them unduly higher public profiles.
“July is not too far away. Anyone who wants to have a contribution can wait. The important thing is to follow due process. One of our biggest mistakes would be to enter cooperation with UDC without having canvassed enough membership support. When that cooperation happens, members should feel they own it.” He added that he had a feeling that at leadership they were not opposed to cooperating with other parties.
“BCP, unlike what some of you normally say is not a public relations creation. Anyone talking about cooperation should know the processes. What we will not do is to abandon processes spelt out in our Constitution and follow public relations. We are going to consult BCP members. Any talk of stage-managing the debate is a creation of the media. As a party we are aware of the fact that leaders have often been accused of unilateralism. As BCP we do not want to fall into that trap.”
Lucas agrees that unlike in other parties, the President of the BCP does not have such far reaching powers to decide on such a big issue like cooperation without engaging the membership. “It all has to do with our history as a party. BCP was started as a protest of the excessive powers bestowed on the then leader of the Botswana National Front, Dr. Kenneth Koma.
We had serious with those powers. To this day some members of the BCP are very skeptical about increasing the powers of their president. They feel that is much like drifting the BNF way. The general consensus is that those powers should be evolutionary. It has more to do with our history than anything,” said Lucas.