To be honest, when the idea of the Umbrella party was first mooted, I was skeptical of the commitment and sacrifices that would come from the Botswana National Front (BNF). I mean, the idea of opposition cooperation was not a new concept and in the previous attempts, the BNF had been blamed for the failure of opposition cooperation as other parties like the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) had accused it of what they termed ‘Big Brother Mentality’. I had thought to myself, if the BNF felt, then, that other opposition parties had to come on board not as equals but mere branches, what guarantee did we have that they had now done away with their alleged ‘BBM’.
Surprisingly, right now, like a shamed dog with its tail between the legs, I find myself among those skeptics being fattened by the humble pies dished out by the BNF. The BNF, especially their president, the most important person in the party, has thus far showed a great deal of commitment towards the umbrella project. I give due credit to the President of the BNF, Duma Boko for displaying maturity, wisdom, receptiveness and realism in his approach towards the Umbrella project. I note with awe Boko’s invincible dedication to the success of the umbrella project which he displays with such a spirit of perfect amity. I am alive to the fact that Boko doesn’t enjoy ‘blanket’ support within the rank and file of the BNF over his approach to the umbrella talks. I know of the schism that exists in the BNF as a result of the umbrella and the way forward. However, Boko must be commended for his decisiveness and reasonability. His leadership acumen and demeanor are top-notch. To tell the truth and shame the devil, Boko stands out as the most dedicated of all the other leaders involved in the umbrella project. Boko has tried his level best to steer clear of finger pointing and has shunned the blame game. I have known Boko to be an arrogant chap with an ego the size of Umaga but this time around the handsome(ladies say so) Harvard graduate is down to earth and has put the interests of Batswana ahead of personal gratification. Boko’s gentleman approach is the sole reason he has become the darling of other parties involved in the umbrella project. Boko has always stood for the truth and that is why he finds himself at the centre of the catfight between the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the BCP.
It is very clear the umbrella is failing to unfold because of the differences between the BMD and the BCP. This time the BNF cannot be blamed for the collapse of the cooperation talks. While it is very unfortunate that the BMD and the BCP have launched scathing criticism on each other, I feel duty bound as an observer and analyst to pinpoint the weakest link amongst the negotiating parties. It is not easy to do so when I look at the fact that my views are likely to cultivate animosity between me and the ‘spoilers’. It is painful that I find myself having to rebuke someone I have always held in high regard and looked up to as a role model and an epitome of humility. However, my conscience is clear on my criticism which I deem both constructive and in order. I know some people will be quick to read bias and malice into my observations. I have mentioned here before that I do not write in order to patronize, let alone deliberately degrade the subjects of my criticism. I criticize people in an effort to make them better persons through self introspection.
I had never imagined I would one day have to say this but I must state that I am very disappointed at the way the BCP President Dumelang Saleshando handled the umbrella issue. Make no mistake, Dumelang remains one of my favorite legislators because he is thorough and oozes a lot of dedication and confidence towards his responsibilities as an MP. It is for that reason that I find myself disappointed with his lack of enthusiasm and commitment towards a project such as the opposition cooperation.
Dumelang has always shown his lack of confidence in the umbrella even before the talks collapsed. One can safely say Dumelang never really wanted the umbrella project to succeed. Why would I say that? Well you might remember that while the talks were ongoing, Dumelang embarked on a country tour preaching not the umbrella but the BCP. While the BNF and BMD always mounted what amounted to combined rallies, the BCP opted to go solo. The BMD and BNF always chanted the slogans of all the umbrella partners at their rallies while Dumelang selectively shouted only ‘kgololo’, his party’s slogan.In his political rallies, Dumelang only emphasized the importance of aligning with the BCP and hardly ever sold the umbrella to the electorates. When the BCP youth rascals ran amok and attacked the leader of opposition in parliament, Dumelang never admonished them but instead came to their defense. This was in contrast to what the other umbrella partners did to their wayward members who seemed to undermine the efforts of opposition cooperation. We know that the BMD President Gomolemo Motswaledi condemned Ndaba Gaolathe and distanced his party from the comments that were made by Gaolathe on the umbrella. We also know that Boko suspended some BNF members who displayed unbecoming behavior which had the potential to harm the unity talks. Dumelang on the other hand never bothered to bring to book his councilor, Phagenyane Phage who used unpalatable language on other negotiating parties.
I also find it rather absurd that the BCP is the one hell-bent on using the previous general election results as determinants to the distribution of constituencies. It is very unfair of the BCP to insist on using last elections because one of the negotiating parties, the BMD, was not yet formed at the time. Why didn’t the BCP make it known from the onset that they are not ready to work with a party that, as they say, has not yet been tried and tested at the polls? Why didn’t they make it known right from the start that they will not be treating the BMD as an equal? Isn’t this the BBM that the BCP accused the BNF of in the previous negotiations? If indeed the BCP wants us to believe that they are committed in working with other opposition parties to dislodge the BDP from power, why would the BCP so viciously fight to take seats that already belong to the BMD, an opposition party just like them? I do not understand why the issue of incumbency should be a problem if indeed opposition parties are not looking at advancing individual party growth and not necessarily the opposition as a collective. Common sense tells me the only negotiations right now should be of those constituencies currently under the BDP and not fellow opposition parties. Dumelang Saleshando has disappointed me because I had expected him to rise above petty and personal clashes that seem to exist among the BCP and BMD leadership. I have come to a conclusion the differences between the BCP and the BMD are purely personal and nothing more. While the BMD leadership has managed to contain their anger and disdain for the BCP, atleast from the public domain, the BCP leadership of Dumelang has embarked on theatricals. Look, I have nothing personal against the BCP and its leadership. All I’m trying to do is make them rethink their position because as it stands, their misplaced egos will surely see the unseating of the BDP come to naught. I should be writing to recommend BCP’s Anna Motlhagodi for Masitara’s constituency and not arguing how Vain Mamela should leave Wynter Mmolotsi alone. Come on guys, stop scrambling for what you already have as opposition but rather work on distributing what you want to dislodge from the BDP. Otherwise you’re going to be all fucked up come 2014.