Saturday, July 4, 2020

The UDC Must Disband and Rebrand

The Umbrella for Democratic Change is a political movement born out of very humble beginnings. When it all started no one thought it could come to play pound for pound with the ruling BDP on the political arena.

Having been built with the strength of the different political parties and the trade union movement, this became a force to fear. But in the drunkenness of power, the movement drifted away from its original form and shape. The most basic thing that gave away the intentions of this movement in 2019 was that the leadership no longer cared to attach Moono to be the central driving force like it was in 2014. The movement was no longer recognizable in a mere four years.

Moono was the defining theme of earlier years of the movement and once this was taken down by the leader it clearly showed unity was no longer a defining factor in the coalition. The greatest mistake was to ignore the role played by the labour unions and therefore replacing them with the waning Khama magic.

In the past campaign, the leadership has been so disjointed and in the shortest description one would use the old English adage; the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Duma Boko had clearly charted a path toward dictatorship in the movement and he thought he was winning.

The issues of centralised power around the president of the movement affected both of his vice president at the BNF level and the UDC. Dr Prince Dibeela was kept in a dark closet and equally so, Dumelang Saleshando who is the vice president of the UDC was kept at arm’s length when it came to critical decision making.

There was one glaring incident that played itself in public close to the elections. Saleshando arrived at the airport to check-in as he was supposed to be travelling with Boko to a meeting in Johannesburg. He went over to the checking counters and they could not find his booking and only to be told when he called the office that they would be using a private jet.

In the meantime when all this wrangling occurred, Saleshando capitalised in building the BCP as a strong party as he noticed the gaps in the leadership. The fact that the BCP was busy building itself up to recover from the 2014 political massacre has been one of the factors that made UDC loose by weakening the BNF. They did this while they were aware that Boko was busy enjoying the limelight at the expense of his own party, the BNF.

The UDC needs a big congress to meet with two major objectives on the agenda; disband political parties and convert the UDC into a single political party and not a coalition. This will of course come as a result of a thorough election evaluation. It will be painful but no birth comes without labour pains.

The new party will then have its leadership elected at a different special congress where the labels of BNF and BCP shall be no more. The residues of the old parties will still be there because people are going to canvas along those lines. Obviously Saleshando would stand for president and the BNF should present a different candidate either than Boko unless they want to hand over power to the BCP on a silver platter because the current leader of the BNF is a spent force.   

It will be very painful to see the BNF bow into obliteration by making the UDC a single party. This is a party with a long history and a clear ideological stance which has been marred by the current leader. But the party stalwarts will have to give in and accept that this will be the best thing that could ever happen to Botswana opposition politics.

For the BCP, breaking up should not be a difficult thing because they are actually an off-shoot of the BNF. In fact they have literally kept the ideology of the BNF over the twenty one years of their existence and for them a total merger will just be a big home coming celebration.

The whole process should take into account even the smallest parties found in the ranks of the opposition. Irrelevant as these small parties may seem, they still do add weight and credibility to the whole exercise. No one should be left behind.

Once the process of forming and registering a single opposition party is complete, then the labour movement can be called on board. It is impossible for any revolutionary political movement to achieve its real objectives without engaging the labour movement.

The UDC sleep walked into the past general elections thinking that they could achieve a change of government without the involvement of the labour movement. This was a tragic mistake and never to be repeated.

After the rebirth and having a deal with the labour movement, there must be a forward thrust to achieve change of government. It will not be easy for the ruling BDP to come to appease the workers within a short period of five years. The damage that has been done by the Khama regime has been so big and cleaning it up will take a while by the BDP.

The BDP has been voted back into power through a protest vote and this is what the UDC must be alive to. The whole strategy for the UDC is to clean-up, rebrand and claim that which has been loaned to the ruling party. It is common that ruling parties often sleep on the laurels of a landslide victory.

Part of the rebranding of the UDC should make the party the most democratic movement in Botswana. Unilateral decisions by the top leadership such as the one that brought Khama into the fold must cease to exist.

In the process of rebranding, the party must once again become a people’s project and not a cash cow for the select few. Some people like Gomolemo Motswaledi have paid with their lives to get the opposition to where it is now and that must never be taken for granted.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.