As Botswana Democratic Party continues to celebrate its hard earned victory for the Kalakamati ward by-election in the Tati West constituency, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) deputy secretary general Richard Gudu has warned that the results show that the united opposition still has an uphill task to win the 2019 general election.
His warning is predicated on the fact that despite the opposition parties launching a massive campaign to recapture the ward, the effort failed.
This is not the first time that the united opposition failed to beat the BDP.
The BDP has so far won two by-elections while the united opposition won eight.
Gudu sounded his warning given that the united opposition seems to believe that their much anticipated cooperation as an opposition coalition is a precondition to wrestle power from Botswana Democratic Party’s uninterrupted hold to power since Botswana gained independence in 1966 on account of unwarranted vote splitting by fragmented opposition parties.
The UDC deputy secretary general said that the Kalakamati by-election must serve as wake up call for the united opposition to step up its campaign efforts to ensure it is attractive to conservative voters who have over the years remained faithful to the ruling BDP despite the economic and social hardships that the country continues to encounter.
“This is not the first by- election we have lost as a united opposition. We lost Sekoma ward in Jwaneng/Mabutsane which has always been an opposition stronghold under the Botswana National Front (BNF) which is a member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change UDC coalition.”
As for the Kalakamati ward , UDC represented by Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) of the umbrella coalition lost the ward in the 2014 general election because Botswana Congress Party (BCP) contested the election as a lone ranger and split votes to the advantage of BDP. In the subsequent by-election necessitated by the death of BDP councillor Israel Samu, the united opposition was optimistic to recapture the ward but in vain”, said Gudu.
Although he does not want to commit himself on why the united opposition lost the by-election before a holistic evaluation is undertaken, Gudu believes that the opposition may have taken it for granted that with the BCP on board, it was guaranteed that the BDP would lose the by-election.
Against all odds, the BDP proved it was still a force to reckon with as it comfortably won the ward polling 579 votes in favour of Zibani Mbalambi against Madumela Matebu’s 445.
Gudu said a quick examination of the weekend results show that the BDP increased in votes by 23 in the by-election while the united opposition with the support of BCP increased its votes marginally by 11.
In the weekend by-election, a total of 1033 voters turned up, a high number for a council ward by-elections.
“I do not know why as the united opposition we lost the by-election. We do not know what happened to the 219 votes that were garnered by BCP in 2019. I really do not know what went wrong that helped the BDP win so convincingly. We have to go back to the drawing board and make a holistic evaluation of what happened. It is a shock and a wake-up call that we as the united opposition lost. Until a holistic evaluation has been undertaken, it is difficult to guess what really happened. However the result shows that as the united opposition we must never rest on our laurels thinking that a combined opposition is destined to overthrow the BDP. We just have to work extra hard and ensure our people understand that we have joined hands to defeat the ruling party”, said a visibly shocked Gudu.
He said despite the loss, he is not taking it negatively but rather positively because it sent a clear signal that the united opposition has to work extra hard to win upcoming by-elections. Despite the loss, Gudu thanked all the people who voted the UDC in the by-election.
UDC campaign manager Mbaakanyi Smarts is quoted attributing the loss to campaign laxity at Sekakangwe village which formed part of the by-election ward. The other village which formed the ward is Mbalambi where the winner Zibani Mbalambi comes from.
However, some opposition activists are blaming their party leadership for shoddy campaign. In their view, all the presidents of the four parties, that is BCP, BNF, BPP and BMD should have take time off time to canvass for votes by doing house campaigns instead of relying on rallies which seem to have not made much impact.
The activist said people are still confused on the cooperation model and it behoves the party leadership to take time off to explain what they are doing instead of holding unity talks in secret.
“The four presidents of the opposition parties should immediately tour the whole country and explain in-depth the status of the cooperation negotiations so that the voters are aware of what is being discussed and intended to be achieved”, said a disappointed activist.