It does not rain but pours for our beleaguered opposition. We are now being treated to a circus show. It was reported that BCP President Gil Saleshando warned his BNF counterpart, Dr Cathleen Letshabo, not to attend the meeting between opposition party Presidents scheduled for this Sunday.
The BNF’s Dr Letshabo, on the other hand, confirmed that she would attend the meeting.
Just when is sanity going to prevail on our opposition political parties? What is most disheartening is that all this is happening against the advice we in the BDP have been giving to our friends, the opposition (you know Botswana is an oasis).
I would wish to state it for the millionth time, that opposition cooperation, Unity, PACT, Alliance, whatever you name it, will not work, and against all this bickering, the loser is none other than the BNF, if it continues to cling to this stillborn project.
The BNF has for now managed to deal with its problems relating to their leader, Otsweletse Moupo, unless of course he makes the most untoward and ill fated decision of making a come back as leader of the BNF.
Again, the BNF has managed to recoup from the near calamity when it was reduced to a paltry 2 parliamentary representatives from 13 when others left to form the BCP. The Party bounced back and it now has 12 seats in Parliament.
All these are indications that the BNF is a solid main “opposition” Party and it should not shy away from making that clear to its detractors in the other opposition bracket.
The party could probably continue to dominate opposition politics unless it falls for the trap and continues engaging other “regional” parties on an equal footing.
I must, however, admit that the position adopted by the BNF that all other opposition parties should use their preferred model, using the party symbols is a wise decision. That they do not want to be a regional party shows maturity at its best.
In an article entitled “BNF Should go it Alone” I so stated: “By continuing to engage its archenemy at their behest, agenda and on their (BCP) insistence of an unreasonable and unrealistic 50:50 basis under guise of opposition unity, the BNF will surely not have learned from the past.
It should be the BNF pulling the shorts as the main opposition, not the other way round. Needless to say the problems that are beginning to show at these early stages of negotiations are a precursor and forerunner to what will transpire if and when the hypothetical scenario occurs: that the opposition will be successful in their unity talks and that we Batswana fall for the trap and mistakenly vote them in power”.
In the said article, I concluded thus: “Faced with these major obstacles to unity with no quick-fix solutions, and probably never will there be solutions, one can reasonably conclude that the only one alternative left for the opposition BNF and BCP is to go it alone and forget about cooperation or unity of opposition.
The BNF must embrace and adopt the Rantao act, persevere and make further inroads into the BCP territory. Already this did bear fruit as they managed to get the late Paul Rantao who went on to win the Gaborone West North constituency.
Then it was Mabiletsa, who also won a Parliamentary seat. Who knows what Mokgweetsi Kgosipula’s plan is? He might be one time lucky under the BNF”. Of course we know that immediately after this pronunciation, the BNF’s Rantao Act paid dividends when the Party caught a Big Fish in former BCP President Otlaadisa Koosaletse. If the BNF can continue scoring heavily against the BCP, why not go for the jugular?
The fundamental question that the BNF must ask is what they have gained from romanticizing with the BCP ever since negotiations started? Nothing! The only significant gain has been squaring up with its nemesis the BCP, over the model to adopt, yet it was the BNF that was to call the shots.
This squaring up has taken the BNF 10 years back, instead of moving forward with their ‘operation tsosoloso’ agenda, which was a good strategic move by the BNF as a way to fend off the BCP challenge. That the BNF is still dithering as to whether they are in the talks or out, and still engaged in verbal spats with the BCP, reinforces the outmoded belief that without other opposition Parties, there is no life for the BNF.
It is this indecision by the BNF, which will eventually lead to the demise of the Party, and if it is not careful, the BCP will outwit it for this seemingly priced position as the main opposition Party. The 2009 General Elections will all be about which of the opposition BNF or BCP will come to its knees.
For now the BNF is playing right into the hands of the BCP. The BCP’s strategy, it appears, is to delay the BNF from making any moves or any acts that would strengthen the party under the pretext that they are engaged in negotiations. This will consume much of the BNF’s time, as it is happening now up until the general elections are around the corner.
Then the tactful BCP will go for broke and outwit the BNF for second spot in the general elections.
That will be the end of the BNF, and the party will follow in the footsteps of the erstwhile giants of yesteryear BIP and BPP. The BNF should be on the look out. It is now time for the Party to assert itself and take the initiative away from the BCP, as the price for second position in the 2009 will signify new political developments in our opposition. One of them will reach their end game.
What then is the noble advice to the less confident BNF? Firstly, the party must make sure that they maintain their current equilibrium and undergo a silent leadership transformation. Otherwise should Otsweletse Moupo come back into the fray, the scales will tilt and the party will once again be divided, thus giving the BCP an easy run for second spot in the 2009 elections, relegating BNF to the abyss.
Secondly, Acting President Dr Cathleen Letshabo and the Party Central Committee must take the bold move by declaring that the BNF is withdrawing from talks with other opposition parties and are reinvigorating “operation tsosoloso”. This way the BNF will steal the thunder away from other opposition parties still mauling over the decision to form an alliance of minors.
This bold decision will ensure that the BNF is an opposition force to reckon with after the 2009 General Elections. Of course, with regards to state power, the party should, for a while, forget their priority is to deal with their archenemy, BCP.
I cannot over emphasize that the 2009 General Elections will be a “make or break” for either the BNF or BCP.
For some very strange reason, the BNF has come to believe that there is no life without BCP, and the party appears to have no confidence in itself. The time is now for the confidentless BNF to regain confidence, and show the BCP that it is indeed a Big Brother, for a fact!
*Raphael Dingalo is Lecturer at the University of Botswana and BDP activist