Tuesday, April 7, 2020

BCP youth want a UDC revamp; it is actually a by-word for taking control

For an organization that has always prided itself with cadre discipline and strategic coherence, this week’s admission by Botswana Congress Party that they had been left out of the loop by the youth committee  when they called for Duma Boko to resign from UDC top leadership would for many look like an embarrassing admission of ineptitude by a leadership that is detached, out of touch and generally aloof on internal dynamics and also the big ideas flowing within.But that really is to miss the point.To be fair to them, BCP remains by far the best run political organization in Botswana.

If there were any lingering questions on whether BCP would be comfortable to continue as a junior partner inside the Umbrella for Democratic Change those questions have now been comprehensively answered.Unlike in other political movements, notably the African National Congress of South Africa where the youth wings enjoy substantial independence and leeway, at the BCP the youth wing and the main party are in total lock step.Today for example the BCP is under total control and awe of the Chairman, Motsei Rapelana who is using her strong personality to literally overrun everybody.Her control runs all the way across party structures.Growth has done pretty little to dent the extent to which the leadership has had absolute control.The exuberance, panache and chest-beating that the BCP likes to show in public is hardly ever prevalent internally where the mood is often calm, studious, calculated, cautious and even sombre.This micromanagement has largely held up for this long because BCP is by no means a broad church. The party’s inner dynamics are essentially tribal in both scope and nature.

The last twenty-year history of the BCP, especially its relations with other political organisations tell a story.Throughout those twenty years the BCP has remained resolute in its purist character, steadfast in its purist outlook and unwavering in its purist ambitions.There should be no illusions about BCP’s determination and indeed ambitions to one day win state power on its own. Everything the party does is tailored towards attaining power on its own.They would relish to one day see themselves as the only game in town.Any outsider seeking to join hands with BCP can only do so under the BCP terms.You can check with MELS or with Botswana Alliance Movement.Other than that, alliances are temporary and limited in scope; used only as a last resort and only when they are necessary for survival and/or self-preservation.For BCP, joining the UDC was a huge step. That step involved a measure of self-humiliation.The only other option was staying out and accepting death inflicted by a ruling party that was all out to swallow BCP alive. In a way for BCP, the UDC is existential, at least for now. A life inside the UDC is a sad but passing phase.Inside the BCP, there continues to be powerful people who look at the BNF and see not a partner, but a rival.

All the aesthetics and optics ahead of elections last year were self-enforced pretentions.In fact the underlying mutual antipathy has never really subsided. At their best behavior, both the BNF and the BCP have stayed ambivalent to each other. And here we are talking about during the best of times.With elections over, so too is the détente – calm is gone and caution is now being thrown out the window.Hence the somewhat unsynchronized but totally understandable BCP Youth Wing statement.To many the statement by the youth wing has been a source of heavy intrigue.To the party planners it a preemptive strike.Unequivocal signals are now out.The party is now back to their old ways, which by the way they never truly abandoned.Their statement has triggered a tumultuous debate inside the UDC. For a party struggling to stay relevant, win public sympathy and also win difficult legal battles, the timing could hardly be worse.Yet the BCP youth is aware that by striking now they can only seize the momentum and be a leader in shaping the discourse of events into the future of the UDC.

The BCP youth wing might be acting independent of the main party (which is very unlikely because BCP is a proven master of kite-flying) but they certainly are taking the bullet on behalf of their party. At UDC level, quite naturally the whole thing has become tribal, as each camp is closing ranks.Remarkable is the fact that the BCP youth wing has not said anything new. What they have said about Boko resigning has been said also by other BNF activists, albeit in hushed tones for fear of the predictable militia-like onslaught by some unruly elements loyal to him.Political observers believe that BCP had lost the ball in 2014 when the party was almost wiped out from parliament.The BCP has never believed that, not for a second. Losing in 2014 was for its strategists seen as a high but all too necessary price worth paying to safeguard the party’s purist origins.In fact their decision to later join UDC is to this day still privately frowned by some internally, seen with some measure of usual righteousness as the biggest strategic mistake by BCP since its formation.

The decision to join UDC was grudgingly accepted because quite rightly it was a strategic necessity taken to save the BCP from what was seen as existential risks at the time. In short it was to avoid death.Apprehensions against joining have only been mitigated because of the party’s stellar performance at the polls vis-à-vis the BNF performance.BCP was allocated 20 constituencies, it won eleven. BNF was allocated 32, it won four. The contrast is staggering.Following the 2014 elections, the Botswana Democratic Party went full throttle targeting BCP and recruiting some of the most consequential cadres the organization ever produced.In that score joining the UDC was existential for BCP. For them there was indeed safety in numbers.The BCP has never in its existence ever wanted to belong to any club of which it is not the leader.It has struggled to adapt and accept with the UDC. It is proving a painful experience, which partly explains what some people wrongly call an outburst by the youth wing.To this day some of the leading BCP cadres are unable to come terms with the fact that Umbrella for Democratic Change is led by Botswana National Front which they despise very much the same way hardliners in Iran despise the United States.

And that it is the pugnacious Duma Boko, who they have always held in utter disdain and contempt that happens to be the BNF and UDC public face, fills them with despair.Boko became leader of the UDC in 2012. His political partner at the time was Gomolemo Motswaledi of the then Botswana Movement for Democracy who after UDC creation wisely averted a contest by saying he would settle for position of Secretary General. Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana Peoples Party got the Chairmanship.Since then a lot has changed for UDC; BCP has joined, Motswaledi has passed on, BMD has been expelled. And Boko has retained the leadership, with no elections held since. Most significant of all is the fact that BNF has seen its influence drastically wiped off due to reduced parliamentary seats.

BCP is forever on a war footing – pausing only if they feel, see a weaker link or sense a danger within.The BCP youth wing has called for Boko to resign. That was inappropriate. They should have called for a UDC elective congress. Either way the point has been made. And for them it is keeping in kind. This is the beginning of the end.The BCP youth wing want a revamp of the UDC. It is actually a by-word for seizing control.The UDC as we know it today will not survive for long.Both the BNF and the BCP are already reaching for the hills.

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