Of UDC constituencies and the BPP ‘insignificance’

SHARE   |   Monday, 20 February 2017   |   By Adam Phetlhe
UDC President Duma Boko UDC President Duma Boko

The recent confirmation and endorsement of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) project is a welcome development in the context of offering a viable alternative to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and enhancing our democracy. Inevitably, such huge development brings with it unintended consequences amongst project partners’ expectations and preferences which if not handled with an open mind, could destabilise the UDC. The issue of constituency ‘dispute’ in some of the partnering parties in general and the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) in particular, looks a sticking concern whose end result is unclear at the moment. This point, however, is rejected outright by the UDC for obvious reasons. In this conversation, therefore, I look at incumbency constituency format and how it may in the long term negatively or positively impact on the overall UDC project and the ‘insignificance’ or otherwise of the BPP thereof. Constituencies are said to have been allocated on the basis of incumbency and how well the incumbent party performed in the 2014 general election. It is also said that the incumbent party has the prerogative of managing the constituency with respect to finding an appealing candidate and that in the event the incumbent fails to do so, the net will be cast far and wide to other contracting parties. This brings the question: will these be self-anointed or some competition will take place? Because these individuals in the overall spirit of the UDC are essentially from the same party, wouldn’t it be fair to hold Bulela Ditswe to identify the most popular candidate who resonates well with members? Members may for example feel that a sitting MP or Councillor have not performed to their expectations since 2014 whereupon new individuals are required to replace them. For example, the Mogoditshane constituency based on incumbency belongs to Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). There are currently other UDC members who didn't belong to the UDC then but do so now who are Botswana Congress Party (BCP) members who stood in 2014 and garnered compelling and competitive figures. Hon Kgoroba got 4180 while MacDonald Rakgare got 3846, a difference of 334.  In this context, are these and other members whose constituency is Mogoditshane but aren’t BMD members not disadvantaged and consequently shut out? It is said that one can join the UDC directly. In such event, and if such direct member wishes to stand in a constituency like Mogoditshane, how will they be accommodated given the incumbency factor? If they are allowed to stand or not given the incumbency factor, wouldn’t this be unfair to them and other members in the same constituency with no direct ties to the incumbent party?  My point is that other UDC members who don’t belong to the incumbent party may, or are unfairly disadvantaged from participating in the internal democratic processes of the umbrella particularly the elective part of it. This suggests that as long as the constituency is held by a particular party in the coalition, members of other parties and while under the umbrella may never have the opportunity to stand for an elective position. If this is meant to bring stability leading to 2019 and that the dispensation will be overhauled thereafter to accommodate other members referred to above, it is understandable. But if it stays the same going into the future, it may cause instability for the coalition. Non-incumbent members may feel and justifiably so, that their right to be fairly elected or not is infringed upon.

The ‘insignificance’ or otherwise of the BPP in the greater UDC project is another hot potato emerging after the announcement. It is said that the party was allocated four constituencies which it is not happy with. This has been complemented by awarding the party the high profile position of UDC Chairmanship. Ceremonial as some would suggest, it is still a very important position nevertheless. For me, the UDC has been overly generous to the BPP considering it doesn’t bring anything significant to the table in terms of numbers to augment what other UDC partners bring. It is an unpleasant truth that even without the BPP, the UDC and barring any unforeseen catastrophe to the coalition should be able to touch the home base in 2019. While it is a given that all individual parties were ‘equal’ negotiating partners at the table, it cannot be denied that the BPP was negotiating from a painfully and seriously weak position owing to what it currently has, or what it possibly can bring in 2019. It must accept that it is a junior partner in the company with very few shares which can simply be bought out. A tenant who rents a back room from the landlord cannot expect to dictate terms to the landlord whatever those could be. Realistically and with some measure of being fair to the BPP, how many council, let alone parliamentary seats can it secure with or without UDC support if its history is anything to go by? May be less than five council seats if one is generous and one parliamentary seat in the Tati West constituency! My point is that given the BPP’s precarious and untenable position and its overall incapacity to be an influential political formation in its individual and UDC context, it is unreasonable and perhaps suicidal for it to be asking for more than it can chew or swallow. A voice of reason should prevail that having been given a ‘rare opportunity’ to be in the UDC, it should be content for now with what it has secured. For it, this should be a stepping stone to rebuild and be more appealing to the electorate. From its complaints to the UDC and the likelihood that the latter will not substantially bend if any, it is just a matter of time before the horse has bolted. Would the BPP seek refuge at the BDP and is the latter prepared to offer such? The BDP, and cognisant of the unfolding political trajectory as it inevitably has a direct bearing on its own survival, would have made a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis. The reasonable analysis would be that the real and potential threat is the UDC with or without the BPP; the opportunity would be to break or destabilise it thereby rendering it weak. Its weakness (BDP) would be its inability to effectively penetrate the UDC given its own internal challenges. Given this scenario, the BPP becomes no influential factor in the equation. This is because the BDP has shown no notable desire or interest (and I stand corrected) to recruit from the BPP. Even if the BPP approached the BDP for sanctuary, the latter would regard the former as a noisy neighbour whose noise they have become accustomed to thereby requiring no special attention. My point is that the BDP still believes that it can retain power on its own without any external assistance hence no need to, at least for now, accommodate the BPP. Even if the BDP entered into some form of cooperation with the BPP and whatever that would entail, the BPP would still remain a relatively junior partner with relatively diminished influence like it is with the UDC. So essentially and politically, the BPP needs some form of political incubation for its survival and relevance from either the BDP or the UDC. It is either it swims or sinks. The only benefit the BDP may derive from the BPP is the latter causing some instability within or without the UDC. When all is said and done, I believe that the constituency issue should have been an open contest for UDC members who would have wished to contest for political office particularly in potential hot-spot, urban and peri-urban constituencies like Gaborone and Mogoditshane. One is, however, not oblivious to the buss work, Compromise which appears to be a substitute to internal democracy whether for better or for worse. The BPP is in my view, over asking for what it is not worth for reasons given above. Its departure from the UDC looks imminent given its recent pronouncements. What is not clear at the moment is what impact if any such departure would befall the UDC. We will be better advised to watch events unfold. Judge for yourself! Email your response to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.