Wesbank

UDC on the spot light

SHARE   |   Monday, 14 August 2017   |   By Adam Phetlhe
UDC on the spot light

It is still difficult to ascertain the legitimate leadership of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) precisely because the two factions led by Hon Ndaba Gaolathe and Adv Sidney Pilane respectively claim it. Until a legal pronouncement is made by a competent court to clear it, such legitimacy or lack thereof will be with us for as long as it takes. As matters stand, there are two centres of power in the BMD which do more harm than good in the context of the overall goal of opposition politics. Now that the two factions have submitted their reports to the mother of opposition parties – the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) – the fate of the two factions politically, is for now in the hands of the UDC. The UDC, it is reported, will be meeting this weekend to deliberate on the matter. I have argued before that in my view, none of the factions should claim legitimacy to the BMD leadership because based on the media reports on the purported congresses by both factions, BMD Constitution appears to have been violated by both factions in one form or the other. On Hon Gaolathe’s side, it could be argued that he has been expelled from the party whereupon his expulsion has not been rescinded by a competent congress structure to allow him to stand for an elective position. For Adv Pilane’s faction, it could be argued that some persons in the form of MPs for example, were barred from the purported congress ostensibly because they had aligned themselves with Hon Gaolathe and were therefore regarded as renegades in the language of Adv Pilane. If these issues in respect of the two factions are correct and can be so legally confirmed, the two factions cannot therefore claim legitimacy to the leadership of BMD. What then is the UDC duty to resolve the current BMD impasse? From where I stand, the UDC has its job substantially cut for it because its interaction on the matter should be based on the BMD Constitution as its point of departure. A political resolution in the form of a deal that would address and discourage a winner-takes-all scenario could be added to the mix as perhaps the best deal to solve the political instability at the BMD. But given the polarised and toxic relationship between the two factions, such political resolution will not be next to addressing the impasse. Both factions cannot simply afford the sight of each other. Having impartially perused and interpreted the BMD Constitution, the UDC should not struggle to come to the conclusion that both factions are illegitimate and consequently direct that the only available and viable solution is a congress re-run to elect lawful leadership. Even if Hon Gaolathe’s faction had not already made this proposal, it is nevertheless the position the UDC would propose given the circumstances.

A perception, rightly or wrongly, has been made that Hon Gaolathe’s faction is backed by a significant number of BMD members. It could reasonably be argued that this is why it is making this proposal to which Adv Pilane’s faction is opposed to presumably because it lacks the significant backing. It goes without saying that if the Advocate’s faction was associated with, or it believed that it had membership support, it wouldn’t be averse to congress re-run for obvious reasons. Given the rightful or wrongful perception of member support for Hon Gaolathe’s faction, it is only natural that the other faction is fearful that a congress re-run would lead to its demise – a position they are not amenable to given the high stakes. Like I have stated above, the UDC’s job is to interpret the BMD Constitution on behalf of and for the two factions to find out if any of the factions complied with, or violated it. In the likely event that both have violated it, the call for a congress re-run should be made. This is based on the understanding that no other solution given the no love lost attitude of the two factions towards each other could be explored to settle the impasse once and for all. Further to this attitude, it appears mediation by whomsoever is untenable as it has been suggested that it was tried by Adv Pilane’s faction but spurned by the other faction.  But given that Adv Pilane’s faction is rejecting a re-run (as at this point and nothing currently suggests it will forego it) as proposed by Hon Gaolathe’s faction, it goes without saying that a similar call by the UDC will also be rejected. If Adv Pilane’s faction rejected congress re-run outright without any court decision to validate their claim to the throne, UDC will have no option but to inform it to stay away from the umbrella shade because it would be unnecessarily stalling the UDC project on frivolous and vexatious grounds. The same position would apply to the other faction if it rejected the UDC proposal. And again my suggestion is based on the insinuation that Adv Pilane’s faction is adamant that it held a lawful and constitutional congress the validity of which I contest as captured above. The same insinuation is held by the other faction. If Adv Pilane’s faction held any authoritative decision to back its legitimacy to the throne, it will be correct to reject the proposed congress re-run because there would be no reason for such.

The UDC has to make hard, popular or unpopular decisions on the matter in the name of fairness to both factions. Obviously, one faction will definitely feel hard done by whatever decision while the other will be elated. Decisions made by the UDC to solve the current BMD conundrum will have far reaching consequences for the overall opposition realistic chances of toppling the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power in 2019. On the basis of the likely congress re-run and the perception (rightly or wrongly) that the Hon Gaolathe’s faction commands a healthy membership support, Adv Pilane’s faction will be more like a death row prisoner standing on the trap door of the execution chamber the opening of which is seconds away. Not only that! It will also be difficult if not absolutely impossible to jam the trap door to prolong fate and destiny. Political and legal options for Adv Pilane’s faction to stay congress re-run if ordered by the UDC look dim in the sense that politically, congress re-run route which it is rejecting, is one such option. As matters stand, this option is out of the equation on account of rejection. Legally, my lay man’s view is that it wouldn’t give either faction the legitimacy to the leadership of BMD because neither qualifies for such owing to the violation of the party Constitution one way or the other by each faction. I have always argued that if either faction felt it is constitutionally compliant, the first point of call would have long been the High Court for confirmation. Whether any court action in this regard by either faction is forthcoming is anybody’s guess. From where I stand and having tried very hard to find an amicable solution that could bring the two factions together, it is regrettable that the irretrievably broken down relationship between the two factions appears not repairable anytime soon. It would also appear that the UDC will not have it easy to suggest a compromise deal. Because the UDC is seized with the task of delivering a decision on the BMD conundrum, it will also be cognisant of the likely effect of such a decision going forward. That said, a decision must nevertheless be reached. What subsequently unfolds should give us an indication whether it fundamentally galvanises the overall opposition politics in the positive or the negative. Whichever way it unfolds, the UDC will be shaken to some degree and it will be a matter of how it picks itself from the setback. All eyes are on the UDC. Judge for Yourself! Send your comments to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.