Botswana voters on Friday cast a vote of confidence for opposition unity. Botswana Congress Party and its President Dumelang Saleshando who broke ranks with the umbrella movement were punished by voters in a move that saw the party ousted from its position as official opposition and its leader voted out of parliament.
The BCP hitherto Botswana’s fastest growing opposition party and tipped by the Afro barometer to retain its position as official opposition suffered a crippling blow when its leader lost his parliamentary seat and position as leader of opposition.
Other traitors of the umbrella movement, Botsalo Ntuane and Mephato Reatile who defected to join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) were this week voted out of parliament. Prominent attorney and political commentator, Dick Bayford says this is an indication of the people’s wish for a united opposition.
Saleshando was the only opposition politician on the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) hit list. At a UDC rally where party leader, Duma Boko was launched as a candidate, a parade of speakers recalled how during the process of forming the opposition coalition, Saleshando stated that those who pulled out along the way should be “punished.”
His party was unhappy about the process and dropped out now his UDC detractors told the rally that not voting for BCP would actually be implementing what its own leader recommended. At that time, it became apparent that the BCP’s leader name might just appear on the list and indeed it has.
The hit list is a by-product of the 2011 strike by civil servants during which the government maintained a hard line position. President Ian Khama fatefully said that even if the strike could go on for five years, his government would still not be able to pay the salary increment that the unions demanded. “Five years” seems to have hurt trade union leaders so deeply that at Boko’s launch rally, two quoted Khama’s precise words and pointed out that October 24 will be payback time.
A number of BDP parliamentary candidate insist that the civil service vote played a major role in the decline of the party’s popularity.