Year of UDC, BCP romance

SHARE   |   Monday, 11 January 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
DEAL LOOMS; Boko ans Saleshando greeting each other at parliament recently DEAL LOOMS; Boko ans Saleshando greeting each other at parliament recently

This year opens yet another chapter in the never-ending drama of political intrigues, with one major aim between political parties of outwitting each other in recruiting new members. With every passing day drawing the 2019 General Elections closer, the political power game is ever intensifying. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is expected to pick the pace of drawing in disgruntled members from the opposition ranks. On the other hand, the long promised date between the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is expected to be finally fulfilled. The BCP seems to be more desperate to join the alliance while the UDC said that they have to do due diligence before talks could start.

Last year UDC President Duma Boko cautioned that the cooperation talks will be very confidential to avoid the 2011 debacle in which the unity talks collapsed due to information being leaked to the media. In 2011 the talks collapsed on allegations that the parties couldn’t agree on the allocation of constituencies. The biggest loser was the BCP as they performed badly in the 2014 general elections. Since their elective congress last year, BCP leadership has been trying to convince members to join the UDC. The anti-cooperation faction reasoned that no resolution was taken at the Kanye Congress regarding cooperation with UDC. Some of the group went around the country addressing rallies accusing the leadership of trying to mislead the party cadres.

The ruling party capitalised on the issue and recruited some of BCP influential members to their fold and the exercise is expected to continue this year. Some of the prominent people who defected include the Secretary General of BCP Youth League Thato Osupile, former Youth League President Lotty Manyepetsa and their 2014 parliamentary candidate for Nata/Gweta Ditiro Majadibodu. They were labeled as members of a faction known as Ditimamolelo. One of BCP firebrand Phagenyana Phage who contested as parliamentary candidate for Lentsweletau/Mmopane constituency has been seen frequently at BDP rallies and allegations are rife that he might also cross to the ruling party. Two days before Christmas BDP welcomed another BCP member and their only councillor in Mogoditshane Johnson Rowland.

Another BCP member, who is expected to join the ruling party this year, is their 2014 parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Bonnington North Annah Motlhagodi who resigned from BCP late last year. She is one the founding members of BCP and was in its first national executive committee. BCP, on the other hand, is also recruiting BDP members, especially in the Tswapong constituency.

BNF Elective Congress
Since they joined the UDC they have been concerns from some conservative BNF members that the party has failed to cement its influence within the alliance with only President Duma Boko holding a very influential position. Some contended that this has been exacerbated by the fact most people in the BNF leadership were not assertive enough to challenge for positions. This year the party will go for its elective congress in which tough contests are expected especially for the position of Vice President and Secretary General. Same Bathobakae who is currently the Vice President will be challenged by the Secretary for International Relations Reverend Prince Dibeela.

Those who support Dibeela have revealed that he will compliment Boko especially with his calmness and his academic background. They believe that he is influential and will be able to make BNF voice known within the alliance especially with the arrival of BCP in the fold which has some of the political sharp minds in the mold of Dumelang Saleshando and Dithapelo Keorapetse. Those pushing for Bathobakae believe that she should be given chance to prove herself and show to the outside world that the party still embrace affirmative action especially women empowerment. In the just ended parliamentary session Bathobakae woke up from slumber and showed why she is called iron lady as she took her political opponents head on.

Another fierce contest is for the Secretary General position which will see Mohammed Khan squaring up with the current publicity secretary Moeti Mohwasa. The position is currently held by Ferdinand Kgosikoma who is expected to step down. Khan, who is currently the MP for Molepolole South, has held the position in past but stepped down in order to concentrate on wrestling the constituency from BDP which he achieved in 2014. Mohwasa - the longest serving publicity secretary in BNF - is also doubling up as UDC mouth piece and many within the party believe he has done extremely well in the position and is high time he moved up the ladder.

In Khan, Mohwasa will face a fierce and militant leader who is not afraid to take his detractors head on and his supporters feel he will cement BNF’s influence in the alliance. It is going to be a tough contest and will be difficult to know the winner before the actual results are announced. Another elective congress will be for the youth league which will see new faces contesting for the most of the key positions. In the BNFYL presidency contest Khumoekae Richard and Kago Mokotedi will square up.

Richard is an author whose book titled ‘Scandalous Murdering of Democracy’ cost him his job as lecturer at Francistown Technical College. He is also the former Student Representative Council President for University of Botswana. Mokotedi is also a former SRC President and is currently working as a private attorney.

BDP pushes to regain glory
The past two years have been some of the toughest political years for the ruling party as for the first time in history it lost all the by-elections held since 2014 General Elections. Panic buttons were pressed and the party retreated to Limkokwing University for a special congress just few months after its elective congress in Mmadinare to come up with reforms that will ensure that they remain in power even after the 2019 elections. The highlight of the special congress was the birth of the much talked about Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). The party believes the programme will stimulate the moribund economy but its detractors believe the ruling party is just trying to appease voters.

The other reform is to deploy party cadres to government positions to monitor projects as there is a feeling among the democrats that some public service employees are sabotaging the ruling party. The congress also took a resolution that President Ian Khama and his executive should visit different regions to get their views on how to restore the BDP’s glory.  The party central committee has been visiting regions and also trying to revive the structures. The BDP, which has a rocky relationship with the public sector unions, has now extended its olive branch to them and has held talks with various unions. The party is also re-admitting independent candidates without any conditions.

In December the party unveiled its Christmas catch in the mold of former BNF firebrand Dumezweni Mthimkhulu who contested the Gaborone South elections as independent candidate after fallout with party leadership.