A universal appreciation is that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has generated overwhelming support unprecedented for an opposition outfit in Botswana.
Not only has it engineered electoral support for itself and member parties, it also has succeeded in banishing the public’s low regard for opposition parties.
In effect, in 2014 and 2019 general elections, the UDC threatened to end the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) uninterrupted rule.
On both occasions, the coalition had the financial wherewithal to outmuscle the heavily resourced BDP that has normalized the use of public resources to fund its activities and trounce its competitors.
The UDC also boasted of some of the best human resources with combination of brilliant politicians and vulgar militants.
At the other end of the spectrum, the ruling BDP which has been experiencing a downward spiral on a consistent basis to a point where it is frowned on by its erstwhile loyalists, seemed resigned to its fate.
Precisely, the BDP looked dead and buried, while the UDC appeared to have got everything right – bags of dark and dirty money, the brains, the numbers, favourable socio-economic conditions and of course the backing of transnational shoddy characters.
By all accounts, the 2014 and 2019 general elections were for the UDC to loose and on both occasions, the coalition unflinchingly contrived to postpone regime change much to the disappointment of the loyal members and unaffiliated voters who had thought that the UDC was serious about state capture.
Fairly speaking, while the UDC policy alternatives are unparalleled at least on paper, as an organization the coalition is a holy mess, an eye-sore, and a disgusting cesspool of mercenaries on a mission.
A common refrain is that opposition parties do not win elections, ruling parties lose them. Using this principle, it could be posited that in the last two general elections, the ruling BDP did everything possible to lose state power but the ever-promising yet self-destructive UDC always floundered at the last hurdle.
Conversely, competitive general elections have proven that it is much easier for the opposition to lose elections even when the ruling party is at its lowest and this is because most opposition parties often give the appearance of an alternative government while in actual fact they are a replication of the walking dead.
Going into elections, opposition parties always look formidable and ready to take ruling parties to the cleaners but this is only because they have mastered the art of mocking ruling parties’ policies left, right and centre; sometimes lying big or sweet talking desperate citizens and projecting themselves as fundamentally different, novel and extraordinary beings.
The opposition would often appear invincible going into the final stretch of campaigns not so much because of their tactical finesse but rather because of voters’ craving for regime change.
Like most opposition groups, the UDC usually bank more on the public disillusion with the BDP as opposed to its own internal strengths and organizational prowess which is why it is often unable to sustain the push to the finishing line.
To start with, the UDC is founded on erroneous premise of seeking to unite all opposition parties irrespective of their core business or real intent.
The UDC has become too desperate for power that it has reached a point where it is joining forces without thorough consideration of this decision on their political identity, purpose and public image.
Whereas at the formation stage, the UDC had a distinct identity attendant to the role of the opposition in a democracy, the coalition is no longer different from the ruling party, especially in terms of the reputation of a majority of its key personnel.
In an attempt to rope in all political groups outside of the ruling establishment in order to have the numbers, the UDC is now crowded with all kind of sinners fleeing from the ruling establishment.
Basically, the UDC has not formulated a robust framework to guide it in its business of enlisting opposition groups. As a result, the coalition consistently invest considerable amount of resources in trying to bring in stunted, tiny hate parties that behave like proud vagrants.
In effect, the coalition is crowded with sell-outs and traitors who give the UDC the appearance of an outfit on a romp while in actual fact it remains a bubble, with no clear sense of purpose.
The belief that a coalition would have the greatest impact if all opposition parties operate as a single unit is erroneous as it is misleading. A coalition ought to be strategic in grouping like-minded approaching opposition parties to work together.
While the 2014 and 2019 general election results show that a united opposition would record a landslide victory any day, the UDC should not have been tempted into enlisting anything and everything that identifies itself as an opposition group because some of these were always going to be infiltrators, liabilities and a source of instability.
In failing to be picky, the UDC is now home to all sorts of characters and has become hostage to ambitions of transnational crooks, individually and in groups. It is crowded with self-seeking splinter parties that are always on the move and always ready to wreck the marriage for that is what give them political mileage.
The consequence of this is that the UDC has no corporate identity and image and it is extremely fragile, indefinably unstable and an absolute risk to trust with state power.
While some dissidents from the ruling BDP are politicians of substance who would add value to any serious organization, a majority of them are toxic delinquents united in purpose to ruin the whole if they do not get their own way.
The leadership line up of some of the splinter groups that seek to become kingmakers is instructive and points to the weird reality that the coalition project has been hijacked by aliens for their own agenda.
While we recognize the value of coalitions in politics especially in a majoritarian political system where the playing field is not level, we also need to be wary of a partnership of fugitives motivated by narrow self-interests rather than a desire to serve the nation.
The truth is that UDC is an example of toxic political partnership mainly due to the reality that decisions about which political group should become a member of the coalition are often made on the fly for there is no framework to guide such decisions.
In the end, the UDC partnership has come to do more harm than good to most of its group members especially those that have a culture of political stability and recognizable potential for growth.
Essentially, instead of nurturing coalition members and empowering them to expand their electoral bases the UDC partnership actually constraints the degree of their independence in many ways that scare away serious opposition groups.
The current UDC is a partnership of strange bedfellows united by their politics of hate rather than what they seek to offer Batswana that would be fundamentally different from what is offered by the current administration.
While coalition formation is normal and almost inevitable as a strategy designed to pool resources and the numbers together, it must not be done for the sake of it or as a mere public relations exercise where old partners unite anew or as in the case of where tiny parties that need the coalition more than the coalition needs them or where a big party makes unnecessary huge noise about coalescing with another party that is as good as not being in existence.
So far, the UDC has done well to challenge some evil decisions sponsored by the ruling party and Batswana are grateful for that. However, its desperation for power that has caused it to confederate with toxic figures from the ruling families threatens to wipe off its erstwhile appeal to the electorate.
In the end, its indiscriminate approach to engagement means that scandal-prone, family parties will always become part of the people’s project with the same privileges as to influence major decisions and ultimately turn the UDC into something worse than tyranny.
By now, the UDC should be having a very clear picture of who should be in the coalition project and who shouldn’t be just as human beings mature to know what is good for them and what is not.
In advanced political systems where party politics is an important public business, success is not limited to the performance at the polls in terms of the number of seats won but is also measured in terms of preserving reputation and the retention of wider public support.
Thus, while the decision by the BCP and its friends to quit the coalition would naturally subject them to ridicule and alienation, such a decision may in the long term prove principled and ethical and may parachute the BCP and its allies to the status of crown prince.