By Thobo Motlhoka
The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is reportedly courting disgruntled members of the expelled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) having made similar overtures to the Alliance for Progressives.
The tactic by the UDC apparently is meant to avoid a long-drawn-out court battle which has the potential to derail the coalition’s preparations for the General Elections to be held in October.
“We have heard of such plans to recruit some of our members.
We are forging ahead with the court case challenging our expulsion. We won’t be deterred,” BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole told The Telegraph.
He said they were well aware of the UDC’s intentions as the coalition leadership had already made contact with some of their members trying to recruit them.
The initial plan, a source close to both parties says, was to have the BMD’s National Executive Committee (NEC) topple the party’s President Sydney Pilane – action that would see the party being admitted back into the coalition.
Pilane’s apparent misconduct formed the basis for the BMD’s suspension and the subsequent expulsion from the opposition umbrella movement.
The coalition partners particularly the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) have accused Pilane of being a liability to the ‘umbrella’ and constantly causing trouble.
The BMD President also stood accused of attacking other coalition partners, airing internal party issues on social media and radio.
Plan B, the source says, is to recruit individual members of the party especially parliamentary candidates into the umbrella partners especially the BNF, with the promise of running for elections under the UDC ticket and isolating Pilane.
Following the announcement of the expulsion in 2018 the UDC exempted BMD’s council candidates from the expulsion, giving them an opportunity to run under the coalition ticket.
The BMD filed an affidavit late in 2018 challenging the decision by the UDC to expel the party. Mangole said they were still waiting for the UDC to respond.
But UDC President Duma Boko has told The Telegraph they were in no hurry to file the answering affidavit. “No we have not filed yet,” Boko said on Friday.
“We will take our time. We are relaxed. We are not under pressure. There are timelines. In terms of the rules we will give them some documents and they will have 14 days to redo their papers if they so wish. Following the 14 days then we will file our answering affidavit.” said Boko.
He dismissed reports that they were doing all in their power to ensure the matter does not end at the courts.
“We have no plans to solve this outside of court,” said Boko.
The BMD filed an application with the High Court late last year in the seeking a review and setting aside of the decision to expel it from the UDC.
In its application, the BMD pointed out that, “In numerous public statements subsequently issued by the BMD, one written and many at rallies, in radio and newspaper interviews the BMD rejected the purported suspension and purported expulsion.”
In his affidavit Mangole states that, “as a founding member of the UDC, the BMD has at all material times had the rights accorded to a member of the UDC under its registered constitution.
This includes the rights not to be suspended and expelled other than in accordance with the provisions of the UDC’s registered constitution” and that, “the name of the UDC was the brainchild of the BMD.” Mangole further states that: “The UDC was formed and registered by the BMD, the BNF and the BPP as a society in terms of the Societies Act. The BCP dropped out of the negotiations before the constitution was finalized and submitted for registration.”
No other political party, Mangole says, has since the registration of UDC in 2012 applied to become a member of the UDC in terms of procedure set out in the registered UDC constitution, with the result that the UDC remains the BMD, the BNF and the BPP.