Even before the Gaborone High Court hands down judgement in the Umbrella for Democratic Change versus Botswana Movement for Democracy case, there is already additional worry among some in the former opposition collective.
After being ousted from the party, BMD has lodged a case with the High Court, questioning the legitimacy of such action. Oral arguments are scheduled to start tomorrow and as with any case, it is unclear how long it will take for the court to hand down judgement. In the event of a UDC loss, that would spell disaster for its 2019 election candidates. A senior Botswana National Front figure says that these candidates have gone to quite considerable personal expense to produce election merchandise like campaign leaflets and T-shirts.
“They have also been introduced to voters as UDC candidates,” says the BNF man, hastening to reveal a little-noticed pitfall that lies ahead. “If the court rules that BMD was unlawfully expelled from UDC, that would mean that its membership has to be reinstated.”
However, it is highly unlikely that in its present constitution, UDC would take that risk because there was intense pressure from members to have BMD expelled.
“Under such circumstances, all the parties that presently make up UDC would have to get out of UDC and form a different coalition that BMD can’t lay legal claim to. That would force candidates who have already produced UDC merchandise and have already been introduced as UDC candidates, to start their campaign over under a new identity,” the BNF leader says.
BMD would once more be left out in the political cold but the difference this time would be that it would have inherited the UDC brand into which a lot of marketing work has been put.
A UDC loss would also come at personal political cost to the leader, Duma Boko, who is also BNF President and Leader of the Opposition. Boko, an advocate who has taught law at the University of Botswana, will have to personally bear responsibility for an unfavourable outcome because he publicly stated that the ouster of BMD from UDC was lawful.
While there would still be the option of an appeal, time is fast running out and the issue necessarily needs to be resolved in order that supporters know how they will vote in October. As evident now, another pending court case would interfere with the campaign work for an election whose date wouldn’t be postponed as a result.
There is also fear in some opposition quarters that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party might call a snap election to take advantage of an opposition in disarray. Such likelihood may have been heightened by the latest developments in the BDP. On Friday, the party expelled Tati East MP, Guma Moyo, and suspended Lerala-Maunatlala MP, Prince Maele as well as 34 councillors in the Central District Council. It has been revealed that as part of a plan to claw his way back to executive power, former President Ian Khama will assemble a stable of independent candidates. Developments such as these make a snap election likelier.