Following the success of the pact between the Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana Alliance Movement, the opposition Botswana National Front and the Botswana Peoples Party are said to have initiated talks aimed at establishing a memorandum of understanding to carry them to the 2009 general elections.
Even though the leadership of the two parties is currently not forthcoming with details, word reaching The Sunday Standard is that negotiations between the two parties are already underway and a high profile meeting has been slated for November 10 where delegates from the two parties will set the ball rolling.
The BPP President, Bernard Balikani, and the BNF Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, were on Friday cagey with the details saying that they would rather not comment on the issue then. The two leaders did not deny the allegations and went to great pains to explain that “opposition cooperation has always been a priority” on their agenda and that “they will be willing to sit down at the negotiation table with any willing partners”.
When pressed for details Balikani refused to comment further referring this newspaper to Secretary General Edward Mpoloka who could not be reached. But Mohwasa was more forthcoming when he said that the BNF is willing to negotiate with any party at any time. “You must remember that we never walked out of the last talks and, even though we were vilified for opting for a different model we remain committed to cooperation talks,” he said.
All indications point to a concerted reconciliation drive and a possible pact between Botswana’s main opposition party and the oldest political party in the country. While the two parties could not stand each other in the past, sources say they have started casting furtive glances at each other and it is only a matter of time before they rush into a political reconciliation embrace that will give birth to a political phenomenon capable of taming the menace posed by the BCP/BAM accord.
It is not the first time that the opposition has mooted the idea of cooperation. The initial pact involving BNF, BCP, BPP and BAM collapsed after the BNF adopted a big brother attitude calling for all parties to affiliate to it as the main opposition in Botswana. While the remaining three parties were still reeling from the BNF’s departure, the BPP also dealt a damning blow to the cooperation talks, dumping the loose pact model and calling for the dissolution of all the other pact partners to form a new political party under the auspices of the BPP. BCP and BAM stood their ground and BPP walked out in protest.
Without the participation of the hitherto key players in the cooperation talks, many wrote the obituary of the opposition cooperation in Botswana but the two minnows, BCP and BAM, stuck to their guns and laboured on in their quest for opposition unity.
The duo surprised many when they managed to form a tangible and very successful pact that saw the popularity of the two parties, especially the BCP, soaring to greater heights. While other parties were still reeling from the trailblazing success of the BAM/BCP pact, it started showing results upsetting local political giants in a number of by-elections, in the face of a dismal showing by BNF and BPP. In the process the BCP emerged as the opposition political menace in Botswana as the BNF wallowed in ridicule and embarrassment over their leadership problems. The BPP also tittered towards oblivion as party structures collapsed and members complained of an ineffective leadership.
The BAM/BCP pact machine churned on culminating in the signing of the memorandum of agreement at a high profile event in Gaborone and a subsequent launch in Maun.
Those close to the BNF and the BPP say that, despite strong opposition to their cooperation by some party structures, the leadership has decided to move forward as the two parties have a common understanding. ”The two parties could not sit back and ignore the latest developments and it was only a matter of time before they joined forces to find a solution to the menace that the BAM/BCP accord has become” said a BNF insider.