Umbrella for Democratic Change is having second thoughts about opening a full scale negotiation set up with the Botswana Congress Party.
This follows a blueprint of the “Terms of Reference” originating from the Botswana Congress Party leadership.
Among other things, the BCP wants an undertaking to be made of cabinet portfolios that will be allocated their party should the UDC win in 2019.
This has not set well with some UDC leaders some of who are already sensing bad faith.
The result has been a groundswell of opinion inside the Umbrella for Democratic Change that maybe it was a mistake afterall to create an impression that negotiations with BCP would involve a wholesale suite of conditions.
Now the UDC leadership is backtracking on some key aspects, indicating that the current arrangement of UDC is not negotiable.
They hold that any party coming into the UDC can only do so as a member, like the rest that are already in the umbrella.
BCP, for their part, at least based on their draft “Terms of Reference” do not intend joining the UDC but only cooperating.
Additionally, some UDC members are against UDC negotiating as an equal to the BCP, when it is a fact that the UDC is a conglomerate of three parties; the Botswana national Front, the Botswana Peoples Party and also the Botswana Movement for Democracy.
They say this reality should be reflected in the numerical proportionality of negotiating teams representing all the sides.
UDC members who are against negotiations are also of the view that if BCP is indeed interested in joining the UDC, the party could apply and be received as an equal member with all privileges, powers, obligations and responsibilities that are the same to other existing members.
There is also concern that with the planned negotiations there is a risk of deadlock and possible collapse of talks which might on its own bring about unwanted public rancor as the UDC would be compelled to once again explain to the public issues that they have long moved past as a party.
Speaking to the The Telegraph, BNF Secretary General Tapiso Kgosikoma said he was aware that there were members including inside the BNF who are averse to negotiations as currently proposed.
He said already there are vocal voices lobbying for a possible re-think of the negotiations setup.
Kgosikoma said UDC however remains intent on reassuring and allaying any fears that BCP might have.
That however has been scuttled by the “Terms of Reference” seen by The Telegraph which point to the fact that the BCP is not yet fully committed joining the UDC. According to those terms of reference, BCP leadership, any negotiations with UDC are only limited to collaboration.
More unsettling is a subtle demand by BCP to be promised cabinet portfolio post 2019 should the UDC win elections.
A lawyer approached by The Telegraph has said any efforts to take away powers of selecting cabinet from the Head of State and confer them to any authority including a political party that might be part of the ruling coalition would be unconstitutional.
Kgosikoma said in an interview that at the UDC it is now non-negotiable that those coming into can only do so as members.
“For us when we say negotiations we are referring to allocation of constituencies. We want to give BCP representation inside the UDC. But that can only happen if they are me3mbers, that is if they join,” said Kgosikoma.
He said he is aware that an impression has been created that for their part, BCP want cooperation.
“We had expected BCP to join. We are open to gibing them representation inside the UDC, hence the negotiations,” he said.
He said another component of the negotiations would be to9 reflect at leadership levels that with the BCP, the UDC now has four parties and not three.
“But still we are of the view that at the moment the UDC has too many positions and we want those streamlined,” said Kgosikoma.