Friday, July 12, 2024

Whispers in the deep from the 2014 Elections

Prior to the just ended general elections, I penned an article in which I hypothesized that the BDP will win the elections outright, and they did, bagging 37 of the 57 constituencies. The BDP deserves a commendation. Furthermore and using the Afrobarometer findings as literature review, I noted that the UDC is worth 5% as against the 13% which was BNF, UDC and BMD combined. I must say that my supposition on the latter has been disproved by the election results basing on the Parliamentary popular vote as UDC outperformed BCP netting around 30% to BCP’s 20%. The UDC’s sterling performance took me by surprise, but this is good for our thriving democracy.

Generally I must say Batswana and mostly those who voted, and all the political parties including ‘mekoko’ that participated are the winners. The elections were conducted under a peaceful atmosphere from the campaigns, through voting and till the election results were announced. It was a breathtaking exercise but in the end the nation prevailed. Whilst all political Parties were winners, there are however whispers in the deep for all the political Parties which prompts them to engage in introspection for the sake of the common clich├® ‘continuous improvement’. Comparatively amongst the 3 Parties, BDP, UDC and BCP, the BCP came out battered and bruised.

When in their publication, the BCP noted that the Country is at crossroads, little did they know that it is their Party that is at crossroads. I have always maintained that the elections were not so much about which party was going to win elections, as I have argued that the BDP was in the clear. The elections were mostly about which opposition Party between the BCP and UDC will emerge as the main opposition Party. Undoubtedly the UDC has firmly established its position as the major Opposition Party. Prior to the elections, Spencer Mogapi of the Sunday Standard had thrown the gauntlet at UDC’s Duma Boko and BCP’s Dumelang Saleshando. He had published as such:

It is not only the BDP that has big and difficult decisions looming. The same applies to Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change….A big loss for either of their political formations would in very explicit terms be a vote of no confidence on the two men. A passionate Scottish nationalist politician called Alex Salmond had convinced Westminster that there was need to hold a referendum on Scotland breaking away from the union. After Salmond lost the referendum, which was by a 10 percentage point I marveled when he immediately announced that he was resigning as leader of his Scottish Nationalist Party and also as First Minister of Scotland. Spencer Mogapi concluded that anyone of the two who is humiliated should resign. Undoubtedly the BCP is humiliated and I fear for Dumelang Saleshando’s political future under the present setup.

Forget about the academic debate proffered by the BCP that their popular vote remains constant at around 20%, the fact of the matter is that the UDC has leapfrogged them standing at around 30% in addition to the 17 Parliamentary seats. The BCP actually lost some seats compared to the 2009 elections, from 6 to 3. The ‘winner of the losers’ therefore becomes the UDC and the question is what will happen of the BCP? They are at crossroads!! Already pundits are beginning to pen the political obituary of the party. I do not entirely disagree with this analysis. If the BCP decides to go it alone, my premise is that come 2019 they will be severely punished and will die a natural death as the immediate past elections were telling us that Batswana prefer a two-tier political system. Should they decide to join UDC, they will be joining from the position of weakness.

This alone should not be overlooked as some Comrades from the same UDC would necessarily remind them of this true fact of life (position of weakness) and will the BCP cope under such stress and strain. Furthermore this will be the end of Dumelang Saleshando’s hopes of going back to Parliament, as Phenyo Butale and the UDC will not give him that latitude of going back to Gaborone Central. That notwithstanding, the BCP’s slimmer of hope as a standalone Party will mostly depend on how the Umbrella will hold going forward considering that the UDC is an amalgamation of cohabiting Parties, the erstwhile BNF, the moribund BPP and the New Kid on the Block BMD. Of these 3 formations, anything can happen anytime.

The UDC’s immediate challenge is how they move forward. Should they adopt the current Umbrella formation or should they form a single Party? Already scholars of political science sense trouble in paradise for the UDC. This is not to suggest that they can not achieve the feat, but the going will be tough. Should the UDC decide to power on as an Umbrella, then the question of mapping up constituencies for the 2019 elections will become dire. Indications are that the BMD arm within the UDC has won more seats than the BNF and BPP and they might wish, legitimately so to be allocated more seats and the battle for constituencies will begin.

Actually a satirical friend of mine was saying the BMD formation within UDC should claim the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament from BNF and I turned a deaf ear. Add the BCP to the mix, the spectra becomes even more interesting and exciting and one wonders how they will work out a formula. We however wish them the best of luck as they move along as an Umbrella. Should the UDC however decide to form one Party, they will then come face to face with the lacuna that is Bulela Ditswe, and its Mekoko offsprings in preparation for the 2019 elections. None the less we wish them the best of luck again should they decide that they are to form a single Party.

Should they, against all odds manage to move along as a solid Umbrella, or as a single United Opposition Party, then we are likely to see a very interesting general elections come 2019. We need to recognize that the BDP won the 2014 general elections outright although in some quarters the party was written off. As mentioned above, the BDP won 37 of the 47 seats and this is by all means an impressive performance. Be that as it may, the BDP should not lose sight of the fact that they lost 8 seats including prominent Ministers Johnie Swartz and Kitso Mokaila as well as their stronghold of Molepolole where incumbent and longest serving MP Daniel Kwelagobe lost his seat to the UDC.

The BDP however should draw solace from the fact that they were able to capture 7 Parliamentary seats from both the UDC and BCP. The notable being Lobatse where incumbent Nehemiah Modubule (whom I had penned an article predicting his downfall) lost to the youthful Sadique Kebonang, and Chobe where the BDP’s Ronald Shamukuni defeated incumbent Gibson Nshingwe of the BCP. To counter the United Opposition, BDP will have to be stronger and pull all stops. The Party would need to embark on a robust and open introspection in going forward to avert the challenges that besieged them in the run up to the past elections notable being ‘Bulela Ditswe’ and the way the Party managed the same. There is a school of thought that the BDP scored an own goal through the way it handled Bulela Ditswe.

Furthermore the BDP will have to model a way of cultivating good working relations with the Proletariat who were at the forefront in de-campaigning the ruling Party. Added to this is what Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Guy Standing refers to as the “Precariat” a new social class structure. The ‘Precariat’ have unstable labor, work in ‘flexible’ contracts, work as temps, casuals, ‘freelance,’ part-time, etc. This group he argues consists also, amongst others the working-class communities who lack schooling and feel deprived by reference to a lost past. It also consists of the educated, mostly young who suffer relative deprivation by being denied a future, a life of dignity and fulfillment.

It was basically the youth and workers that dealt a blow to the ruling Party and for this the BDP MUST take them on board in the development agenda and turn their fortunes around. Hopefully with the economy improving somewhat, things can only get better. The 2014 general elections have therefore evoked ‘whispers from the deep’ that all Political Parties must address if they are to be relevant. The 2019 elections promise to be more issues based and one can only encourage Batswana to once again show the international community how it is done.

There were challenges here and there, but on the whole all the Parties, BDP, UDC and BCP including the electorates conducted themselves in a mature and responsible manner. It is unfortunate that the towering figure and an individual with an effervescent wit Dumelang Saleshando appears lost out in Politics. At the BDP he will be an asset and his politics can be revived as he can win back Gaborone Central from the UDC and who knows…!!


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