Botswana Congress Party (BCP) firebrand and parliamentary candidate for Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency in the 2014 general elections Phagenyana Phage has made a hasty retreat on calls for his party not to cooperate with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The BCP hardliner who together with some members of the Ditimamolelo faction had embarked on a countrywide tour to convince party members to reject a coalition with UDC has now changed tone. In an interview, Phage said he has since been advised by some of his colleagues to stop campaigning against opposition cooperation.
The outspoken BCP militant politician said the only problem he has is with UDC leader Duma Boko whom he said that he does no trust. "He spends most of the time in the United States of America with celebrities and it seems he doesn’t care about joining forces with BCP,” said Phage saying they want the memorandum of understanding to be signed this year or UDC must forget. Recently there have been allegations that the BCP leadership want to take disciplinary action against Phage and some of his cronies who include former Publicity Secretary Taolo Lucas.
This came up after the group addressed a political rally in Bobonong in which they attacked the party leadership for flirting with UDC without taking the mandate from the delegates. Phage said he is not aware of looming disciplinary action against him and some members of his faction. This is not the first time Phage and some members of his faction dismissed the coalition talks as they did that in 2011 when the idea of opposition was mooted. Together with BCP parliamentary candidate for Francistown South Vain Mamela and former President of BCP Youth League Lotty Manyepetsa they dismissed unity talks and accused Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) for behaving like a zombie.
Their spirited campaign against the coalition talks in 2011 led to BCP pulling out in December of the same year and going to the 2014 elections alone. Phage said that for the coalition to be successful the cooperating must come up with a policy paper which will guide them but without it will be just a pipe dream. Recently when addressing editors from private media, Boko revealed that he doesn’t see any talks with BCP taking place this year. “We already have action plan for this year and maybe next we can open the talks,” said Boko.
Recently BCP decided not to contest the Boswelakgomo council ward bye election and instead supported UDC candidate Themba Setimela who won the ward by 183 votes against 165 received by Ms Zubeida Raphael of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). BCP Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keoraptse said that it was inappropriate for some party cadres to address political rallies insulting UDC leaders.
He said that as much as their constitution protects freedom of expression they cannot allow their members to go against what has been agreed by the majority. “They have to tow the party line and ensure that they do not contradict party position in public, disrespect party leadership and bring the party into disrepute,” said Keorapetse.
He said that they cannot allow their members to go around the country holding political rallies and going against party decision and that they have cautioned them against doing that. Keorapetse denied that they are planning to suspend some party members who are going against party decision.
After their elective congress that was held in Kanye, BCP leadership resolved to open negotiations with UDC as they feel Batswana want a united opposition as evidenced by their dismal performance in the 2014 general elections. The decision did not go well with some party members especially the conservatives who went by the name ‘ditimamolelo’ who argued that a resolution was never taken to cooperate with UDC.