It turns out that the issue of whether or not the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) is a member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) depends on who the speaker is and where s/he is speaking from as well as what year and month it is.
On August 6 last year, UDC president, Duma Boko and Caroline Lesang, who was then Acting BPF president, released a joint press statement saying that BPF was now part of UDC. Headlined “BPF-UDC 2024 Cooperation Talks Outcomes”, the statement explicitly stated in one part: “The BPF shall, with immediate effect, become a member of the UDC with equal representation in the UDC NEC as other affiliates.” This announcement followed day-long talks between UDC and BPF officials.
Last Thursday (January 19, 2023), BPF’s patron and former president, Ian Khama, said something entirely different.
“The BPF is not part of the UDC yet. That will be determined by the next BPF congress,” he told Sunday Standard.
The next congress, in which Khama may vie for the BPF presidency, is scheduled for April.
Khama’s understanding of the BPF-UDC relationship is not shared by a BPF National Executive Committee member who reveals that not only is BPF part of UDC, it has also participated in the latter’s meetings. The August 6, 2022 press statement also said that both the BPF and UDC will establish working streams to work on the constitution and policies and that all UDC affiliates had been tasked to submit draft constitutions to enable the amendment of the existing one. Our information is that BPF undertook both tasks and will submit its draft constitution to members at its national congress this coming April.
Khama’s statement reveals divisions within the BPF with regard to the party’s participation in the UDC collective, whose other members are the Botswana National Front, the Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana People’s Party. Some BPF founder-members in Serowe are said to have been shocked to find out that the party has joined UDC with no real consultation having taken place.
Part of the reason Khama is not anxious to too closely associate BPF with UDC is that he knows that the latter desperately needs him to win Central District constituencies where he is popular with voters. Khama helped Taolo Lucas (Bobonong-Semolale), Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Onneetse Ramogapi (Palapye), Yandani Boko (Mahalapye East) and David Tshere (Mahalapye West) to make historic wins over the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. On account of the fierce campaigning that Khama waged, the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane, almost lost his parliamentary seat in Boteti East. However, these two sides are evenly matched because Khama also needs the support of UDC to oust President Mokgweetsi Masisi from office.