UDC congress: Fireworks loom large

SHARE   |   Monday, 05 February 2018   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
UDC congress: Fireworks loom large

The simmering political tension among the contracting partners in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has reached a crescendo. Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which is fighting tooth and nail to ensure they hold tight to their constituencies amid pressure from other contracting partners to have them, is said to be waiting to strike at the billed congress in February. Highly placed sources within the party have revealed that should the issue of the allocation of constituencies be brought to the congress they will also question the membership legality of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) within the alliance. “According to the legal constitution of UDC, BCP is not a member as the new constitution has not been adopted as such we will ask that they be sent outside as the congress determine their membership,” said the source who attended the last weekend National Executive Committee meeting of BMD.

BCP membership

The legality of membership of BCP has been questioned by Botswana Peoples Party and the BMD faction which later formed Alliance for Progressives (AP) before. BPP at that time questioned why BCP was attending UDC NEC meetings because based on the working constitution they were not members. They reasoned that UDC has only singed memorandum of agreement with BCP and can only be full members after the adoption of the new constitution. Another burning issue that has been raised is the delegates to the congress, while BNF and BCP are advocating for parties to bring delegates from constituencies that they have been allocated, something BMD and BPP are said to be against that.

Congress delegates
“Look, if the parties are to bring delegates from constituencies that they have been allocated it means that BMD and BPP will be disadvantaged. Parties should bring two delegates from the 57 constituencies because it is not like we don’t have people in the constituencies allocated to us,” said a member of BMD NEC. According to the source, the new UDC constitution only has the National Executive Committee (NEC) as such contracting parties are in charge of the constituencies. Leaked information has shown that Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) have already reallocated some constituencies that belong to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and some that were allocated to Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).

Clash over constituencies  
Recently UDC President Duma Boko indicated that they will vet all the parliamentary candidates and no party has autonomy over the constituencies allocated to them. The real acid test for UDC will be to choose a parliamentary candidate for Moshupa/Manyana. The constituency will go for by-elections as the incumbent MP Mokgweetsi Masisi assumes the highest office in the country. It has been allocated to BMD but there are indications that BNF wants to take it as they believe they have the numbers there. In the 2014 General Elections results Ngaka Monageng of UDC garnered 3231 while BCP represented by Stegling got 2557 with the ultimate winner Masisi getting 6831 votes. Information shown to this publication indicates that BCP President Dumelang Saleshando is set to try his luck again at Gaborone Central. He is the former MP for the area having won it in 2004 and 2009 before he was deposed of by Dr Phenyo Butale of BMD in the 2014 general elections. In 2014 Butale representing UDC garnered 4601votes followed by Saleshando by 3727; Rupert Hambira of the BDP with 3191 votes. Disc jockey Sidney Baitsile trailed behind with paltry 35 votes. They have been suggestions that he should be fielded at either Gaborone South or Maun West but some feel he can do better in Gaborone Central as the margin between him and Butale was not wide.

Picking seats
BCP National Chairperson Motsei Rapelana, who in 2009 and 2014 tried her luck at Gaborone North, is allegedly considering contesting elections again under UDC in the same constituency. This is the constituency that Pilane is earmarking to run in. In 2014 Rapelana came at a little bit distant with 3155 while the winner Haskins Nkaigwa was voted by 5738 and Keletso Rakhudu of the BDP received 4109 votes. With BCP having openly stated that BMD has no numbers and structures, they are now gunning for Mogoditshane constituency whose incumbent MP Sedirwa Kgoroba is one of the founders of the Alliance for Progressives (AP). BCP, which was the second after UDC in the 2014 elections, is pinning its hopes on former Youth League President Tumisho Rakgare to take on Kgoroba and the new political kid on the block Tshepang Mabaila of the BDP. BCP and BNF’s reasoning is that BMD has no people on the ground to contest the elections but highly placed sources have revealed that BMD is an influential person in the area to represent it. Another constituency which was allocated to BMD but being targeted by both BCP and BNF is Lentsweletau/Mmopane. BMD was expecting to field Major General Moeng Pheto but, it is claimed, he has said he will not be available. In the previous elections BDP won the constituency with landslide as 7170 through Vincent Seretse followed by Phagenyana Phage who garnered 3150, Moeng Pheto who was an independent candidate got 3120 votes and UDC represented by Godisang Mbwie got 2999. Some BCP members in Tati East are also said to be pushing the party leadership to discuss with BPP to give them Tati East constituency as they feel they have more presence in the area than their counterparts. In 2014 Samson Moyo Guma won the constituency by 5864 followed by MarIa Kusasa of BCP with 2324 while Chibuya Kuchwe representing UDC with 1512 voters.