After what has been very promising courtship, the Botswana Congress party and the Botswana Alliance Movement want to settle down. Neither party has gotten down on its knees to pop the question but it looks like the sound of wedding bells would be beautiful political music to the ears listening out on both sides.
Publicly, BAM president, Lepetu Setshwaelo, has twice mooted the idea of the two parties merging.
The first time was in Ramotswa when he was launched as a parliamentary candidate for the South East South constituency.
The second was a fortnight ago in Maun at a joint meeting of the executive committees of both parties.
However, before BCP and BAM can become B-something, there is a lot of spadework that still needs to be done.
The issue has never been discussed formally and for that reason has, at least up to this stage, never been an agenda item at any joint meeting of the executive. On the other hand, Setshwaelo says that, informally leaders from both parties have had occasion to wrap their minds around the issue on numerous occasions. Based on those informal discussions, Setshwaelo’s impression is that “there is not a lot of objection” to a merger between the two parties. The only kinks to be worked out relate to modalities and date, he adds. Within BAM itself, he reveals that the idea has been endorsed by the party’s most numerically strong constituency ÔÇô the north-west region.
Likewise, BCP’s secretary general, Taolo Lucas, says that while there has been no systematic and programmatic focus on the merger issue within his party, there have been earnest and optimistic conversations around it. As regards the BCP’s position, Lucas says that the party is keeping an open mind to Setshwaelo’s proposal and will do anything in its power to advance the cause of opposition politics in Botswana.
This is not the first time that opposition parties have attempted to walk but tripped one too many times down the aisle. To their credit, however, BCP and BAM have co-habited peacefully for quite some time. Setshwaelo says that his party’s relationship with BCP is “close to excellent.” Lucas describes it as “very cordial.” On the basis of a deal made last year, the two parties have pooled their resources together for next year’s general election.
In terms of this deal, BCP has been allocated 50 constituencies and 82 wards while BAM gets seven of the former and 54 of the latter. In terms of the deal, “Contracting parties shall not contest against one another in any national, local or by-election but shall rally around and encourage their respective memberships to rally around a common candidate agreed upon.”
A party allocated a constituency or ward shall identify a candidate in line with its internal processes and candidates so identified shall contest under the official symbol of the party that has been allocated the constituency irrespective of the party they belong to. The alliance will present a common presidential candidate who shall come from the BCP. On a more practical level, the solemnisation of the BCP/BAM marriage goes way beyond the matrimonial dreams of party leaders from each side. Setshwaelo says that the marriage would only be possible if “everybody agrees to it.” In its proper context, “everybody” refers to national congress delegates who can bless this union and forever hold their peace. The upcoming national congresses in a fortnight present an opportunity for both parties to move the merger discussions to the next level.