Saturday, September 19, 2020

Opposition negotiations put nation in suspense

The suspense over the fate of opposition negotiations stays on. The last ditch efforts to avert the collapse of negotiations involving four opposition political parties was supposed to continue yesterday (Saturday) through mediation.

The convenors of the negotiations are saying very little regarding mediation progress, which began last week ostensibly in fear of putting the delicate process in jeopardy.

“We want to do it [mediation] as quietly as possible,” said one of the convenors, Lebang Mpotokwane, on Friday.

It would appear the convenors are waiting for a miracle to save the talks from collapse.

Bits and pieces of information coming out of the negotiation table point to an insurmountable task facing opposition parties as they try to form an Umbrella party with the ambition to unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party at the next general election to end its five decade rule.

What is not in dispute, however, is that the opposition parties have collectively failed to agree on the distribution of constituencies. Mpotokwane has lent credence to the fact but remained hopeful.

This notwithstanding, and in the absence of any tangible progress thus far, leaders of the four political parties also somehow remain optimistic that the opposition project is not destined to fail.

Leader of Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, for instance, said in parliament last week that the opposition Umbrella will work in his response to the State of the Nation address.

Things being all the same, his party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) saw itself deadlocked at bilateral talks with both the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana National Front (BNF) over the sharing of constituencies.

The bilateral talks between the BCP and the BNF over the sharing of constituencies received a clean bill of health from both parties. The Botswana Peoples Party itself has had no qualms with a single negotiating party over the distribution of constituencies.

While he admitted that political parties have deadlocked over constituencies, Mpotokwane declined to identify the parties that have so far gone for mediation. He, however, said according to the rules of the game, if negotiations amongst parties reached a deadlock, they would then have to go for mediation.

“Mediation began three days ago [Tuesday]. When that fails, the convenors would then make recommendations,” said Mpotokwane without providing further details.

Asked if there was a time frame set for mediation to have been complete so that parties can move to the next level of negotiations, the convenor answered in the negative.

“The idea is to take as enough time as practically possible so that negotiating parties may arrive at some agreement; putting deadlines might make it difficult for other parties to make sense and understand the arguments of others,” said Mpotokwane.

The Sunday Standard understands that the BCP went for mediation on Tuesday last week, the BMD on Thursday while the BNF mediation took place on Friday.

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