The growing crescendo of shrill voices predicting a victory for Umbrella Democratic Change in 2019 should exercise some caution. They are by all likelihood getting ahead of themselves.
A lot still has to happen before UDC can start toasting.
The road to the State House is long and convoluted.
This fast growing motley crew of parties ÔÇô as one charitable sympathizer once called it ÔÇô now has a chance, but it is far from being a confirmed winner of a General Election.
Botswana’s electoral system, we should never forget, is constituency based. For one to win power they need to have a majority of constituencies behind them.
Which is why even as the ruling party was voted by fewer people than opposition combined, the Botswana Democratic Party still managed to win more seats and is by law still in power today.
Having convinced a majority of Batswana that they are indeed electable, what the UDC now needs to do is to now start working on winning constituencies.
That, frankly is not an easy task, which is why we have a majority of opposition activists literally prating for the system to be changed in favour of Proportional Representation.
They want an easy path to power.
That however should not be allowed. They should follow the proper route. Which is what they are now facing. That route will test their staying power and also test their endurance.
This is the painful truth that UDC strategist cannot afford to skirt.
It is all too possible that in 2019, the UDC might yet increase their share of popular vote to well over 60 percent but still not hog enough constituencies to win state power.
The just announced increase of cabinet ministers and specially elected members of Parliament by the Botswana Democratic Party is the first step towards foiling a UDC victory using simple arithmetic based on the number of constituencies.
It is by far the clearest sign to date that the Botswana Democratic Party is not going to give up its fiefdom without a fight.
Already they are striking us blind with the firepower of state owned media ÔÇô a powerful juggernaut that easily swamps the disorganized, infiltrated easily manipulated private media.
The only solace is that the state media is itself irredeemably discredited. And few people take it seriously as a source of unvarnished news.
Whatever the defects of the BDP, there is still a lot to be done by UDC before victory can be said to have become irreversible.
The arrival of Botswana Congress Party into the UDC is in itself a step towards resolving the constituency debacle. In the 2014 General Elections, the opposition lost no less than twelve constituencies on account of vote splitting.
But then as BCP’s Dumelang Saleshando once said before he was converted into the UDC religion, “in politics one plus one is not always two!”
The arrival of BCP into the UDC brings new challenges. And from the look of things those have started to subtly play themselves out behind the scenes.
Given their culture, the BCP is going to struggle to be a member of any order of which it is not a leader.
The party has always been led and dominated by control freaks who genuinely believed their running this country is their pre-ordained right.
The biggest question now is what becomes of these control freaks ÔÇô some of who are financial benefactors – once their party is a member of the UDC?
For someone who has always advocated for a strong opposition that is underlined by opposition unity, it might somehow strike many as odd to lament the arrival of the BCP.
It is an infinitely uncomfortable stance that we find ourselves in, but there is an emphatically just reason for it.
Based solely on their past instincts, the party is going to be reluctant to accept anything less than defacto leadership of the UDC.
For those already celebrating UDC victory in 2019, the arrival of the BCP is yet another Achilles Heel that they now have to contend.
The intention is not to spoil the party, but point to cold realities of coalition politics.
The issue here is not what position Dumelang Saleshando has been offered, nor is it what his ranking vis-├á-vis those of Ndaba Gaolathe and Motlatsi Molapisi will be.
Rather it about the inevitably destabilizing influence on the entire edifice that BCP will have. Even in commerce, acquiring a new concern and subsuming it under another one is never a seamless undertaking.
We cannot be indifferent to the fact that such a new entity brings with it an alien culture, a new set of ethos and indeed potentially unexpected consequences.
Those alien traits are more succinctly and indeed proudly pronounced in politics than in business.
And in Botswana’s politics, the BCP, at least until recently, has invariably proved more tribal and sectarian in its espousal of its definitive ethos so much that even the most ardent adherents of opposition unity will need time to it pass over.