Opposition parties have scorned the debate on whether or not they can manage to remain a united force in a crowded political marriage of convenience.
Independent critics have suggested that a multi arrangement of opposition unity is almost destined to fail. Critics hold the view that a merger between two political parties appears to be the most viable arrangement.
The three opposition parties that recently signed a memorandum of agreement, however, beg to differ.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) says it is entering the talks without any prejudice while the Botswana Movement for Democracy says a multi arrangement model is workable.
“Each option will be considered on its own merit. These also include bilateral discussions which have been agreed to by all parties to be permissible. Our view is that the larger the coalition the higher the likelihood of unseating the Botswana Democratic Party. We are of the opinion that we do not have alarming ideological differences as opposition parties. The negotiating opposition parties over cooperation generally subscribe to social democracy whose cornerstone is social justice,” says the BCP secretary general, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang.
While the BCP admits from experience that a merger is always the most ideal, the party says it is alive to the idea that it cannot happen overnight.”
“We strongly welcome the contribution of local academics and wish to invite more constructive debates around the question of the best model for opposition cooperation. Such a model must be workable, tested but also relevant to our political and historical circumstances,” says
Likewise, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) says it respects and notes the views of the various commentators who continue to contribute the most ideal opposition cooperation model.
“There are lots of views out there. None of them is prescriptive nor necessarily the best in so far as we are concerned. But ultimately, we must come up with a model that will ensure a victory in 2014,” says the BMD interim deputy chairman, Botsalo Ntuane.
Ntuane says it should not be difficult for opposition parties to work out a cooperative model that will usher in a change of government in a country where the opposition parties are ‘distinct entities but not enemies’.
“When one considers that in other countries, Kenya for example, parties that have physically fought have managed to work together and even govern, we do not want to go into the debate of two parties or three,” argues Ntuane.
The Botswana National Front (BNF) has poured scorn at critics in their attempts to suggest an ideal model of opposition cooperation for Botswana.
“We should not delude ourselves in believing that we the three opposition parties that have signed a memorandum of agreement have become one party. There are so many things that bring us together than those than we differ on. The thing that has brought the three political parties together is the intention to cooperate and unseat the BDP. What also has to be appreciated is that in the 2004 General Elections, BAM, BPP and BNF were able to work together and have a joint manifesto. We do not see how this cannot happen with BNF, BCP and BAM,” argues Mohwasa.
The BNF like others declines the invitation to talk about which one of the three parties can best work with which.
“This is divisive and retrogressive. It is a question of perception. Though perceptions cannot be ignored in politics, we do not believe they are so important that they can be the only factor in our engagements with other political parties,” Mohwasa argues.
To buttress his argument, Mohwasa says recently the BMD Vice Chairperson spoke strongly against privatization in parliament but the party did not distance itself from his comments.
“The BNF position on privatization is quite clear. We are opposed to it just like BMD. We also agree with the BCP on a number of issues. It would have helped for the authors to give illustrations rather just make such misguided and unsubstantiated arguments. We expected better. It would have helped the reader to specifically mention the policy differences,” regrets Mohwasa.