The three presidents of the parties making up the umbrella met in Francistown over the weekend to discuss issues pertaining to the umbrella’s constitution, registration of the party, its policies and constituency allocation.
The trio, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)’s Gomolemo Motswaledi, Botswana National Front (BNF)’s Duma Boko┬áand Botswana Peoples Party (BPP)’s Motlatsi Molapisi, alongside one of the conveners, Justice John Mosojane, and the organization’s contact person, Moeti Mohwasa, rebutted recent media reports of cracks within the umbrella.
The first cooperation talks that collapsed last December comprised the three parties and the Botswana Congress Party, which has since pulled out ahead of the 2014 general election.
The project leaders announced that the umbrella is set to be launched in September and their Francistown weekend retreat was initiated to map a way forward ahead of the crucial Wednesday talks.
Boko said the umbrella’s biggest challenge was managing exceptionally high public expectations at a time that the nation is yearning for regime change, adding that it was incumbent upon the umbrella to deliver the project.
He said the umbrella is intended to be a mother of the three participating parties and will help them pool their strengths together and galvanize them into one force to be reckoned with.
Boko noted that continued participation in the umbrella project has been a big challenge for his BNF party as there were certain pockets of dissent that culminated with some activists leaving the party and other central committee members quitting.
He said those who left the party were not satisfied with the direction that the party had┬átaken with regards to the umbrella model, noting that since the departure of the disgruntled, the BNF had remained “resolute and focused on making the umbrella project work”.
The BNF leader decried negative media reports on the umbrella project explaining that as a human rights lawyer, he advocated for separation between facts and opinion maintaining that the distinguishing line has been blurred.
He urged journalists to point the errors that they commit as politicians, adding that would propel them as human rights lawyers to defend the journalists’ rights to write, noting that frequently journalism ethics are violated with impunity.
Boko said journalists should avoid pressure when reporting and that the poor quality of reporting was not energizing people to vote. He also noted that as leaders they are not always available for comment but warned that that should not give the journalists the latitude to report on speculation as fact.
He admonished the journalists for wanting the comment from the leaders even if it could be provided by the relevant spokespersons urging that in case they are not available for comment, the journalists should endeavour to drop an e-mail or other alternative means of raising them.
“We do the best to interact with you. I deliberately avoid commenting because quite often we are misrepresented. Nudge us gentle as public figures,” pleaded the BNF president, who added that the constitution of the umbrella was ready and would hopefully be availed this week.
For his part, BMD president Motswaledi said the press has a tendency to seek comment from the presidency of the parties when there are spokespersons who could furnish such comment, adding that the presidency of the umbrella will be decided by the umbrella itself and that is not a matter of which party should lead but rather a capable candidate.
Boko said the memorandum of understanding that the opposition parties had previously entered into on by-elections has been rendered impracticable by the pull out of the Botswana Congress Party from the umbrella project.
He explained that by-elections will provide a rehearsal for all the parties, that is, the umbrella, BCP and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and added that the by-elections would provide a great test opportunity for the parties.
Motswaledi said negative reporting is unfortunate.
Justice Mosojane, a former High Court judge, said it was wrong and offensive to place words in quotes which were not uttered, adding that as history, the words remain attached to that person forever.
He lambasted the press for looking for its own words to use and never cross checking facts and advised that going forward, it would be best to paraphrase than try to quote verbatim.
On his part, the BPP president Molapisi said the press conference was brought to Francistown because most activities were held in Gaborone and urged the journalists to verify issues with the umbrella before going to print, adding that the umbrella is a national project that should be cherished by all.
He said negative reporting is encouraging the BCP to go it alone from the rest of the opposition parties.