Why BCP opted out of umbrella

SHARE   |   Sunday, 17 August 2014   |   By Banks Ndebele
Saleshando Saleshando

As the campaign for the hearts and minds of the Botswana voting public gains momentum, a lot is being said, especially by Botswana Congress Party (BCP)'s detractors, about the absence of BCP from the umbrella or UDC. However little has been said truthfully as to why the BCP is not part of that arrangement in the first place.

Let us put it on record that the main reason why the BCP is not part of the umbrella is that the negotiating parties could not agree on the allocation of constituencies, especially those that were then held by incumbent BMD MPs who defected with the seats from the BDP. This was further worsened by the hostile attitude displayed by BMD activists towards the BCP, and fuelled by the animosity of some BNF activists whose bitterness towards the formation of BCP was opportunistically rekindled by their current leader.

The BCP could not give up these contested constituencies as its position was, and still is, that incumbency derived from defection does not necessarily translate to transfer of support to the incumbent, simply because the seat coveted was obtained under the banner of a different party.

Defectors rarely, if ever, move with a sizeable chunk of the voting public. Defection therefore puts the incumbent in a vulnerable position, as the chances of retaining the seat at the next polls are remote, if not non-existent. To allow the defectors to stand in areas where  parties other than their newly adopted one had made significant inroads will not only be caving in to the instinct of self-preservation that drives way too many of our politicians, it presents a real and present danger of handing over the gains made to rival parties, in this case the BDP. 

At any rate, the demands for protecting incumbents are not only self-serving, they seek to undo the painstaking work done by the BCP to amass a significant following in a lot of areas which the BMD representatives parasitically wanted to have allocated to BMD. Our membership can never agree to that kind of arrangement which is nothing but an indication of wanton greed - greed for constituencies that the BMD never toiled to render winnable. In addition, the insistence on incumbency being protected and the incumbents allowed to sail into the general elections without going through primary elections is a subversion of democracy - other members of the incumbents' political parties must be allowed to exercise their democratic right of challenging the incumbents at primary elections. 

I have yet to come across cogent reasons why there should be a special dispensation for these incumbents. If the party members are convinced that the incumbents have done a good job during their tenure in office, they will vote them back into candidacy, and subsequently back into office. Where they have been found wanting, it's time that other, more capable members are  given a chance. We must never be seen to be compromising democratic practices to protect individuals. Such compromises set bad precedents and mark the onset of degeneration into the politics of cronyism, where decisions are made to protect friends instead of promoting democratic principles.

Fully cognisant of the fact that their party is a living example of the benefits of cooperation, the BCP membership, although desirous of a form of cooperation that will hasten the ejection of BDP from the seat of power, reject an approach that has now turned into a project for saving the political careers of certain individuals, rather than speeding up the removal of Domkrag and the transformation of our society. We still stand by our position.