The long silence projected by the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) following the formation of a splinter party - Alliance for Progressives – by its former members lead by Ndaba Gaolatlhe has finally been broken by the party’s Vice President Dr Tlamelo Mmatli who has declared that his party intends to field suitable candidates in all constituencies and wards which had been allocated to them by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). “However, one thing is clear to these BMD defectors who have joined parties that are outside of the UDC – which the BMD will identify and field suitable candidates in all the constituencies and wards that they won under the banner of BMD of the UDC before they moved to the AP or BDP. This applies to all those who defected to other UDC contracting parties. The BNF, BCP, or BPP will field candidates from their ranks in areas held by those who defected from them. This Fact should be known to those who are desirous of leaving the BMD for any political parties whatsoever (and I repeat; I am not aware of any such councillors or MPs),” Dr Mmatli said. Dr Mmatli – the Molepolole South MP – said concerning the question of Incumbency in the UDC, a retrospective look will reveal that “incumbency” was amongst the set of criteria that were used to allocate wards and constituencies to UDC contracting political parties. According to Mmatli, it was agreed, as a working principle, that incumbency belongs to the parties and not to individuals hence his argument and that, individuals are free to leave their parties anytime they wish, but the ward or constituency remains with the party it was allocated to. These forms of incumbency, he explained, was adopted during the recent negotiations that ushered BCP into the UDC, and says he refer to it as a working principle because it seeks to maintain the balance between the UDC partners in terms of ward/constituency allocations. “MPs and councillors in question, if any, must know this so that they are clear about what they are getting themselves and, by extension, the UDC into,” Mmatli warned.
He, however, acknowledged that MPs and councillors who have been expelled from the BMD are free to join any political party they like but says the wards will not follow them because they belong to their parties., arguing that even if that member was to join any party which is member to the UDC, the seat would nonetheless remain with their former party. “The UDC as a collective gives it’s contracting parties the right to discipline their members and it respects decisions of such parties. Individual parties within the UDC must also show that respect for decisions taken by parties in their dealings with their members,” said Mmatli. The BMD Vice President also took the chance to extend an olive leaf to distraught BMD MPs and councillors, appealing for calm amongst BMD members, saying now that the political upheaval has abated, they should ponder their political future more carefully. “There is more that unites us than what separates us. As such, we will continue open dialogue with those affected to resolve all outstanding issues. Those who wish to follow established procedure to come back to the BMD are most welcome, and will be received with open arms,” he said, further assuring them of unconditional acceptance and inclusion. Responding to Mmatli’s statement, Alliance for Progressives (AP) chairperson, Major General Pius Mokgware dismissed the statement in its totality saying the former is confused, hence his statement is baseless. “One would be even tempted to ask him (Mmatli) if he is even sure that his party is a member of the UDC – as it is they are not even invited to meetings and other important engagements,” Mokgware said. According to Mokgware, the AP still believes in opposition unity and will as soon as they are done with important party logistics engage the UDC and other relevant stakeholders to map the way forward. He warned Mmatli that despite his argument with regards to incumbency, all legislators went into the 2014 General Elections under the UDC banner not as individual parties, hence his efforts to make it look like parties had anything to do with performance were irrelevant. “As the AP we are not at all bothered by Mmatli or the BMD statement – our focus is on building our party,” he said.
However renowned University of Botswana political science professor and analyst, Professor Zibanani Maundeni warns that if the BMD is still a member of the UDC, Mmatli ‘statement does hold water to a certain extent. He explained that as per the agreement, BMD has the right to choose candidates for all wards and constituencies allocated to it by the UDC. But nonetheless says because the AP is now showing interest in renegotiating with the UDC for membership then that’s when the situation may change. “Until we know what terms the UDC and the AP negotiations will be based on, then we really cannot say much,” said Professor Maundeni. Sources have also warned of division at BOFEPUSU where members are said to be against the leadership’s seemingly close association with the newly AP. Some union members are said to be insisting that they should remain with the UDC as the party they have always been associated with. Veteran unionist Johnson Motshwarakgole has been very public about his support for AP leader and this has increased the tension between UDC and the labour federation. But officially the federation has insisted that they have not moved to support AP, saying leaders who are close to AP members are doing so at their individual capacity.