Time is running out for the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Duma Boko to intervene and bring peace between warring factions at their alliance partner Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), after a ceasefire eluded them in Bobonong over the holidays. Two major players in the alliance, the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), have at their conferences held over the holidays resolved that the UDC should intervene to bring peace between their comrades at BMD. This was upon the realisation that the more UDC leadership procrastinates, the more damage the fallout is causing to the foundation of the alliance, which threatens to erode public confidence in the project. Even as that may be, it could be a long day before a solution is found after UDC president Duma Boko warned over the weekend that any interference from external parties could worsen the situation. Parrying accusations of failing to act decisively, Boko insists that any issues regarding the affairs of the BMD including the installation of its leaders are matters for resolution by the BMD itself. "Any calls for the President of the BNF and UDC to impose a solution on the BMD are misplaced and ill-advised. The BMD has its own Constitution, which stipulates the rights and obligations of its members and sets out how the members relate with their organization. The BMD enjoys independence and autonomy even as it belongs to the UDC. Its membership of the UDC has not extinguished its right to self-determination as an organisation governed by a Constitution and under a leadership elected by its members," he said. He would rather the BMD resolve their internal differences and/ or if they see the need seek external assistance from elsewhere. Drawing a comparison with the Constitution of the BNF, Boko says the BMD Constitution must enable membership to address their internal issues and also to determine when they need external intervention. Such decision shall be made by the appropriate structures and may not be externally imposed, he said. To date that has not happened as the factions continue tearing at each other in public, in a war of words that has degenerated into insults, profanities and character assassination.
The circus that was the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) congress at Matshekge Hill School, has hardened feelings between the warring camps. Leaders of either camp have been trading unsavoury utterances against each other with Wynter Mmolotsi and Dr Phenyo Butale of Ndaba camp accusing Sidney Pilane of Modubule faction of manipulating the voters roll. According to the duo, delegates were not voted in line with the Constitution and in most cases sitting councillors, MPs, Women's wing leaders, youth league leaders and members of committee of elders were excluded from the list of delegates. Therefore, they argue that the Congress was invalid because it was not properly constituted, particularly citing Article 13 of the Constitution, which defines the national congress and the parameters governing it. Probably sensing a predicament, the Ndaba camp accuse the Modubule faction, which decried lack of adherence to the Constitution by the Ndaba faction, of deviating from the Constitution yet they claim to be constitutionalists. Mmolotsi said in desperation to steal the party Pilane, Modubule and Mangole, whom he called renegades rented a crowd of maspotis to disrupt proceedings and cause chaos. "Pilane is an angry man. He is not a member of BMD. He is a member of Mangole and Modubule. Our constitution is clear about where an applicant can appeal rejection of their membership application. What he did is called membership shopping, which is not allowed," he said, adding that Modubule/ Mangole are on a mission to destroy the BMD. Just days after Boko sounded the warning, which was followed shortly by a call for intervention by UDC vice president Dumelang Saleshando when addressing a BCP conference in Francistown, Sidney Pilane said Ndaba Gaolathe is just a renegade, a war monger and a warlord who has nothing special about him. He said Ndaba, Molotsi, Segokgo and others are no longer members of the BMD after they were expelled from the party by NEC recently. Just like Mmolotsi he said Ndaba's followers in Bobonong were taken from drinking spots.
Reconciliation; Mission impossible
To some reconciliation is not feasible. By the end of the week all indications were that the two factions were not letting up on the rivalry. It could take long before any external intervention in the BMD debacle because the Constitution of the UDC is clear on the autonomy of its constituent members, and does not vest in the President any powers of regulating the affairs of each constituent party. It emphasizes that these constituent members are governed by their own constitutions. Without invitation from constituent members to intervene the UDC would be overstepping its legal powers to do so. Boko's refusal to be drawn into the BMD mess could be a clear indication that as much as he sympathises with Ndaba, who coincidentally is his vice president at UDC, he appreciates that goodwill alone cannot carry the day. An accomplished advocate himself, who for many years taught law at the University of Botswana, Boko is aware that even though Pilane may not be popular in the movement he is sitting pretty. Pilane is fighting from a position of strength, armed with a BMD constitution he crafted as one of the founders of the party. From the onset, the Modubule, Mmatli Mangole (MMM) faction have remained consistent by clinging on to constitutional provisions – the supreme instrument which guides the operations of any organisation. Although with varying magnitude, Pilane's rejection at BMD is synonymous with the opposition Boko faced from some quarters when he rejoined and was elected BNF president. Some activists, among them Gabriel Kanjabanga and veteran politician Lemogang Ntime, openly opposed and unsuccessfully challenged Boko's membership of the BNF in courts. Ndaba needs to wake up and realise that riding the public sympathy wave may not be enough to ensure survival going forward. With the benefit of army generals, who themselves are master strategists, it is surprising that the Ndaba faction waited for two years to travel to Bobonong to pelt their opponents with stones and sling shots. For two years the Ndaba has known the enemy, and for two years they failed to devise a counter strategy. It would appear that Ndaba and his faction had expected to walk into Matshekge as delegates and outnumber Pilane's faction, and walk out triumphant despite that it was abundantly clear that he was a marked man when he was expelled just two weeks before the congress.
Pilane may not be the people's favourite at the moment but one thing clear is that he outsmarted Ndaba and his crew in planning for the congress, and beat them hands down in Bobonong. He literally stole the party from Ndaba whom, it appears, was hoping to be handed the party on a silver platter and retained as president. Ndaba, it will appear, miscalculated. As public sympathy takes a beating from the ongoing squabbles undecided voters, who have been sitting on the fence, are losing hope that was ushered in by a united opposition in 2014. Regime change is no longer a certainty for 2019. A divided opposition cannot unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), who are watching the developments with keen interest. Already media reports claim that the BDP has contributed to the current fallout in the BMD. It is an open secret that the newly elected BDP leadership of Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed interest in snatching Gaolathe from the opposition ranks because of the value they attach to him. The BDP is asking a simple question; "if they cannot manage minor differences how can they rule the country". Once again it is becoming more believable that "there is still no alternative" to the BDP. There is also growing talk of a strained relationship between Ndaba and Boko, which allegedly weakened when the latter pushed for the admission of the BCP into the alliance. Repeated attempts to dismiss such as mere speculation has done little to put the issue to rest. In Kang, Boko spent the better part of his presentation lecturing BNF members about the importance of adhering to the Constitution. He reiterated that insisting on the strict observance of Constitutional imperatives is not just a pedantic insistence on the letter of the Constitution, but an enduring demand for democratic ownership and accountability as well as a bottom-up engagement of party members and their structures. "This approach not only upholds the spirit and letter of our Constitution, but also obligates our members to take themselves more seriously and to treat their responsibilities to the organization with heightened commitment. Our Constitution was carefully crafted and ably empowers our members to participate meaningfully in the affairs of their organization. We must ensure that these requirements are met before we accept for debate and discussion any matter coming before the National Conference," said Boko.