Both the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando must be commended. The UDC must be commended for their show of confidence in Saleshando. Their efforts to bring him back to parliament through special nomination at the opening of parliament last week will go a long way in cementing opposition cooperation which has been elusive for some time now. Twisted and contradictory as it might sound, Saleshando on the other hand deserves a pat on the back for turning down the offer. Let us start with the UDC’s gesture. By rooting for Saleshando ahead of the many members of their parties (BMD, BNF and BPP), the UDC demonstrated their willingness to mend bridges with the BCP and bring the party into opposition cooperation. Their gesture demonstrated maturity of high levels, given the animosity that has been reigning between the BCP and the UDC. The situation was really bad. The UDC and BCP had reached a ‘fok fok’ stage and some of us were beginning to give up on the idea opposition parties will ever work together.
It was about time opposition parties let go of their egos and focus on the bigger picture, that is, to dethrone the ruling party. We have written several times advising opposition parties that it was delusional for any of their parties to even think they can attain power on their own. Of recent, Saleshando seems to have climbed down on his high horse and is now in touch with the reality that Batswana are yearning for change and that change can only come to fruition through a united opposition. Saleshando has changed his tone and language. He has admitted that his party’s decision to go into the general elections without the cooperation of other opposition parties dealt this country a terrible blow. Saleshando must be commended for accepting reality. They say before you can find solutions to any problem, you first need to acknowledge the problem. Saleshando and his party are on the right path. The UDC seems to view his efforts as genuine and this could be the reason they want to meet him half way. Saleshando has been addressing political rallies and pleading with members of his party to do away with the hostility and the insults that they have been exchanging with their UDC counterparts. Saleshando may have turned down the UDC’s offer to usher him into parliament but what is impressive is how he appreciated their gesture. He declined the offer on principle and not because he took it as an insult from the UDC as some BDP members wanted him to view it. The UDC was sending a message to Saleshando and BCP members. They were basically showing Saleshando that leadership positions should not stand in the way for cooperation. The UDC was trying to show Saleshando how much they value him and that is why his name was agreed upon by the opposition collective in parliament. Now going back to Saleshando’s refusal to be put up for endorsement, one cannot help but admire his principled stand.
Opposition parties having been complaining about the relevance or lack thereof, of specially elected members of parliament. While the positions were created to bring to parliament people with skills and qualifications that may otherwise be lacking in the elected representatives, the slots have over the years been used to reward political allies and friends, some with absolutely no value to add to parliament. Saleshando is one of the people who never shied away from questioning the rationale of bringing people to parliament through the ‘back door’ and therefore it was pleasing to see him walk his talk. It was going to appear hypocritical of Saleshando had he agreed to use the same door he has always advocated for its closure. While a lot of us will agree that Saleshando is a brilliant politician with an amazing grasp of the country’s socio-economic dynamics and as such befitting of special election into parliament, it was very important for him to turn down the temptation. Imagine how difficult it was going to be for him to continue with his onslaught on this dispensation when he would have benefited from it. One can only hope personal egos won’t yet again derail opposition cooperation leading to the 2019 general elections.
One can also hope Saleshando is being genuine in his call for opposition cooperation. Saleshando will surely find resistance from some members of his party but that will only serve to put his leadership through a litmus test. Saleshando can learn a thing or two from Duma Boko. Boko’s decision to bring the BNF into the UDC was met with intense resistance, with some BNF members even taking him to court for his decision. He never gave up. He so much believed in opposition cooperation and fought for it. His detractors are now getting constipated from the humble pie he dished out to them. He is the first opposition President to lead the highest number of opposition MP’s ever in the history of Botswana parliament. It was refreshing to learn that Saleshando has the support of majority of BCP regions across the country on opposition cooperation. His job will be easier than that of Boko. At this point I have no reason to doubt Saleshando’s sincerity. I recently met him in Maun and he briefly explained to me what he meant when he said the BCP wants a fair deal from the UDC. He says a lot of us misunderstood him to have meant he wanted an equal share of the UDC cake. According to Saleshando, all he meant was that he wants the BCP to get what is proportional to what they will be contributing to the UDC bloc.
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