Monday, January 17, 2022

Expert Canadian team-builder offered to consult for UDC

The formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was a process so sophisticated that at one point a “very good” Canadian expert was scheduled to conduct a team-building workshop for the leaders of the parties in the project. While Lebang Mpotokwane, the chief convener of the opposition talks, can’t recall the name of the expert, he shares some interesting details about him. At a time that South Africa was taking unsure steps towards its 1994 democracy, way before negotiations between the different actors started, this expert conducted a team-building workshop in what is now the Western Cape province.

Mpotokwane’s recollection is that in a group setting where there were diehards racists and pan-Africanists, participants had to seriously consider questions such as “Should white people be driven into the sea?” The trick of such questions is to bring all feelings out in the open and deal with them with a view to building bridges between groups of people. Following another disastrous round of talks in 2012, leaders of Botswana opposition parties agreed to attend a team-building workshop. Mpotokwane says that this was in recognition of the fact that there were still “hostilities” between some party members, especially those in the Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party.

The former’s national congress in 1998 ended prematurely with physical fighting between its two factions, one later breaking away to form BCP. Understandably emotions are still raw 14 short years later and Mpotokwane says that while there was no open hostility at the unity talks, the tension was palpable. Somehow, the parties heard about this man who indicated he would be coming to Southern Africa around a certain time. It was arranged that he would use his time in the region to conduct a team-building workshop for party leaders involved in the unity talks. However, around this time the leaders were anything but a team and couldn’t agree on a date for the workshop. Ultimately, the expert’s time in Southern Africa was up and he went back home.

Mpotokwane says that when the leaders were finally able to agree on a date, they had such a workshop which was now conducted by a Namibian consultant based in South Africa. The workshop took place at Woodpecker, a theological seminary owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Botswana which is situated off the Gaborone-Lobatse road in the Notwane area. It was all very hush-hush and the workshop, which happened over a weekend, was never publicised until now. At this time the BCP was in the process of pulling out of the talks and so its leader, Dumelang Saleshando, did not attend.

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