If badly managed, BPF could be UDC’s poisoned chalice

SHARE   |   Sunday, 08 September 2019   |   By Adam Phetlhe On Sunday
Biggie Butale, BPF President Biggie Butale, BPF President

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is overly excited about the fortunes the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) could be bringing to its fold. I am qualifying this excitement because while the BPF has publicly pronounced that it will support the UDC in the 23 October 2019 general election primarily to dethrone the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and which support the UDC has gladly accepted, nothing formal to the best of my knowledge, is yet to take place. At the moment and barring any future development in that regard, the whole cooperation remains a precarious gentleman’s agreement susceptible to betrayal along the way to the elections.

The BPF is a party bringing not much to the UDC (and justifiably so because it’s a new party still trying to establish itself) in terms of policy positions except the much talked numbers which have not been put on the table. But the UDC would care less about the policy positions but about the numbers to boost it. So what is in for the BPF should the UDC win considering that the patron of the former, Lt Gen Ian Khama, has announced that the BPF will be co-governing with the UDC? This is a loaded political statement that puts the UDC in some discomfort because like I have already said, no formal elections agreement has been concluded to legitimise Khama’s statement.


The UDC appears not too eager to conclude an election agreement with the BPF may be because of the fear that such could destabilise it in that those individuals who have already been elected to stand as election candidates may not be readily prepared to forgo a lifetime political opportunity. A political office has become a career for politicians such that forgoing it for someone else could be the last option or better still, suicidal. But if indeed the UDC accepts that it requires BPF numbers which it does after all because every vote counts, it will have to take unpopular decisions in some of the constituencies to accommodate and appease the BPF. I have criticised the UDC before which I still do, that it should have explained its position as regards the role of the BPF in its elections journey to its members who appear disorientated by its arrival in one form or the other. Some section of the UDC membership is arguing that it will withhold its vote to the party because of Lt Gen Khama’s past transgressions while the other welcomes him and the BPF. These divisions do not augur well for the UDC in the greater scheme of things. I hold the view that while it accepts the critical and crucial role the BPF will play in its favour in this election, it seems undecided on whether and how it should return the favour.                

Opposition parties are pitifully notorious of dropping the ball at the eleventh hour to assume political power. Objective members of opposition parties will readily attest to this because it happened right under their noses. The recent spectacle where such a ball was dropped are events leading to the 2014 general election where the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) contested as a lone wolf the disaster of which is well documented. As matters stand at least for now barring any development as I have already said, the horror movie of the UDC’s perennial so-near-yet-so-far may just be loading. The main undoing of opposition parties has been the issue of vote splitting during elections. This fact is proved  beyond any reasonable doubt.


When the BPF was founded a short while ago, the UDC had already had its ducks in a row. That is, it had placed its parliamentary and council candidates in almost all the constituencies. The BPF is arriving with individuals who want to stand for both parliamentary and council seats in areas where the UDC has candidates. The President of BPF is reported to be standing as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency he occupied during the 11th parliament while reportedly, the UDC has a candidate there as well. Wouldn’t it make a political sense for the UDC not to stand against the BPF President given the competitive advantage he has as an immediate past owner of that constituency? The reasonable answer is not hard to find. The BPF is also reported to be lining other candidates in other constituencies. Without going into any scientific analysis of some sort, a UDC and BPF candidate standing in one constituency spells doom for the two parties on the basis that they will split the votes in favour of the BDP much as vote splitting occurred when the UDC and BCP stood in one constituency in 2014. Reasons for vote splitting and the ramifications thereof are known literature in opposition politics. It is mindboggling therefore why the UDC, which has learnt the hard way in this respect, is somewhat behaving oblivious to the vote splitting syndrome that has terrorised it for so long.

It will be disingenuous to suggest that the BPF does not add value to the UDC stable. It is also not in dispute that it is not part of the UDC conglomerate. I have argued before that the BPF, let alone the BCP, has plugged the gap created by the departure of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and by extension, the Alliance for Progressives (AP). One would have thought that where the BPF stood a better chance to win a constituency, the UDC doesn’t stand and instead supports the BPF and vice versa. Any departure from this premise is an obvious vote splitting exercise. Like any political party particularly after an election, the UDC if it wins that is, will be dishing out positions to their members who would have failed to make it in the election. But these positions are never enough to please all losers. Remember that the UDC is made up of three independent parties whose members have a legitimate expectation to be rewarded first, one way or the other. Nothing may be left to reward the BPF.


Given that the current indications point to the UDC bad management of the BPF’s role in its overall political trajectory, the former could be on the verge of dropping the ball yet again which the BDP is waiting in the wings to pick up. With less than fifty days to the elections day and the cooperation between the UDC and the BPF yet to be conclusively defined, the so-near-yet-so-far syndrome the UDC has become pitifully synonymous to, may very well and truly, be on the horizon. Under the circumstances, the UDC has a lot to lose given the body and soul it has given for this election than the BPF. They say “it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it….”. In the end and in my humble opinion, the seemingly bad management of the BPF issue by the UDC could be the poisoned chalice. The UDC appears to be refusing to wake up to smell the coffee. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!


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