Media reports of alleged conflict and a possible split within BMD should certainly be of concern to many Batswana, especially those who were expecting that a united and strong opposition under the UDC would stay clear of any form of conflict and focus on preparations for the next general elections in 2019. One can only plead with the BMD leadership and of course that of the UDC family not to allow this to happen, bearing in mind that an injury to one of the UDC members is an injury to the entire organisation. Concerns expressed through the media, including on facebook reflect some divergent and highly emotional views by Comrades who are supposed to be working together now accusing each other for what seems to be a chaotic situation one of our parties finds itself in. There can be no doubt that this is indicative of the fact that if as the opposition we are not careful, we run the risk of finding ourselves highly polarised. So continuing finger pointing will certainly not help us but rather exacerbate a situation that seems to be going out of hand if we go by media reports. This simmering state of affair is certainly unfortunate and one hopes that it will quickly be resolved amicably before it derails the opposition from their commitment to ensure that they ascend to state power in 2019. While I’m in agreement with those who argue that whatever is going on now, with the passage of time it will become clear that the organisation is always bigger than its elected leaders no matter how popular they could be at the moment. Previous incidents of similar nature to what is currently bedevilling the BMD are being cited which include splits within the ANC, and the BNF where popular leaders who chose to form alternative parties lost their popularity while the mother parties survived.
In short what is being suggested here is that the BMD as an organisation will come out of this much stronger, while those individuals believed to be behind this upheaval will find themselves in the cold. Fine, but whereas I agree with this line of argument, my hope is that the BMD leadership will do everything to avoid any highly charged altercation that could lead to a split similar to that which ultimately occurred in the ANC, the BNF and also the BDP when the very same BMD was formed. I’m saying this because any split within any member of the UDC would definitely adversely affect the growth of the organisation and its performance in 2019. There is evidence that the ANC is now weaker than ever before and now regretting why they ever allowed a situation that resulted in the birth of the EFF. In fact some prominent members of the ANC keep on reminding us that the greatest mistake they ever made was failure to prevent the formation of the EFF because it has now become crystal clear that in addition to corruption related incidents within ANC leadership, one of the reasons the party has lost so much popularity is due to the existence of the EFF. Similarly, while the BNF split in Palapye was to become a complete disaster particularly for the newly formed BCP, it also did not leave the BNF intact and a much stronger party, but instead badly dented its image and support base at a time when it was on the ascendance in Botswana politics, with indications that the party would possibly replace the BDP in the next general elections. Within the once mighty and now seriously limping BDP, obviously President Mogae’s lack of foresight when he brought in Ian Khama as his right-hand man with the hope that he would bring about stability within the BDP remains one of the gravest mistakes a leader could ever commit, because the man hailed as almost the messiah brought absolutely nothing positive, except to further divide the party. It was because of this man’s complete lack of leadership skills and judgement that the BMD was conceived and therefore proved to be a major setback for the BDP as reflected in its dismal performance in 2014 elections attaining less than 50 percent of the popular vote. In the case of both the BNF/BCP and BDP/BMD, one of the biggest mistakes the parties involved committed was to think that they would resolve their conflicts by approaching the courts and as fate would have it, the results in both cases proved totally catastrophic.
One other major split that occurred much earlier in Botswana politics was that of the BPP prior to independence. Some amongst us might not be aware of this particular split at a period when the party was a powerhouse in the history of our politics. Yes, the BPP maintained its identity as a party but the reality is that, just like the others I have mentioned above became weaker, and had Philip Matante and Motsamai Mpho not fallen out the BPP could have remained a very strong party capable of giving the BDP a very tough competition in the elections. All these are clear lessons from which the BMD should learn as they pursue a possible solution to their differences. They have an opportunity and advantage to learn from these past miscalculations and realise that no matter how the situation seems difficult and bleak, the only way out is an amicable solution that requires the leadership to swallow their pride and find common ground. My view is that approaching the courts should not even be an option in the sense that going that route could lead to a possible split and therefore weaken not only the party but also the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), something we should avoid as the opposition given our obligation to start preparations for the next general elections and ensure regime change. You see, going to the media to talk about suspension and counter suspension of each other from the party will not help but only further worsen a situation that appears to be already fragile.
Dr Philip Bulawa is a member of Botswana Congress Party in Tati West, Sekakangwe