If Saturday’s attendance rate for the new Umbrella for Democratic Change launch at the GSS grounds is anything to go by, then the UDC will definitely be a force to reckon with come 2014.
If the cheers, ululations and waves the umbrella motorcade received around the city could translate into votes come 2014, the Botswana Democratic Party and Botswana Congress Party can dismiss the UDC at their own peril.
┬áThe launch came just a week after the trio (BMD, BNF and BPP) tasted their first victory as a coalition at the Sebele Ward by-election, which they won under the BMD ticket.
Speaking at the launch, one of the opposition coalition talks conveners, Emang Maphanyane, gave a brief history of the coalition talks saying it began in 2005 with the BNF and the BCP hoping to cooperate in the 2009 general elections but the cooperation failed to materialise.
┬áHe said the second attempt (popularly referred to as umbrella one) started in 2010 now with the inclusion of the newly formed Botswana Movement for Democracy and the Botswana Peoples Party but also collapsed largely due to differences over just five constituencies. The BCP subsequently pulled out of the negotiations leaving the trio of BNF, BMD and BPP to successfully register the Umbrella for Democratic Change.
Maphanyane applauded the three parties for “choosing the wellbeing of Batswana over party differences”. He, however, acknowledged that the BCP’s non involvement will always cause problems come elections ,saying vote splitting has always given the ruling BDP an edge over opposition parties.
The leader of the Botswana People’s Party, Motlatsi Molapisi, advised umbrella members to refrain from attacking President Ian Khama saying Khama is not important.
┬á“Mandela did not set South Africans free from the apartheid regime, it was the people themselves,” he added.
When he took to the podium (to the roar of the masses who crowded the GSS grounds) Botswana National Front leader, and┬á now UDC president, Duma Boko, reminded the masses that “this is the place where history was made in 2011 with the longest strike in the history of Botswana and the message was regime change . I remember vividly and poignantly when Dumelang Saleshando advised workers not to vote any party not under the umbrella”.
Boko said he made the same undertaking and emphasised that “I have kept my end of the bargain and so did Motswaledi and Molapisi”.
┬áHe said 46 years after independence and the country is still submerged in poverty and the dominance of the BDP has resulted in corruption.
“We are here to present ourselves as an alternative and we are counting, especially on youth and first time voters who cannot be purchased with blankets,” Boko said. The UDC president also added that their victory at Sebele has sent a “chilling” message to the BDP that the “umbrella is real”.
┬áFor his part, BMD president and also UDC vice president, Gomolemo Motswaledi, explained how they (BMD and BPP) arrived at the decision to appoint Boko as president the Umbrella for Democratic Change saying by virtue of them (BNF) having been at the forefront of opposition politics for so many years they (BMD and BPP) saw it fitting to give BNF leadership of the umbrella.
The second launch of the UDC is scheduled for the city of Francistown on December 8, 2012.