Poetic artistry and mastery of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Advocate Duma Boko was on full display at Boipuso hall in Gaborone on Friday when he made an emotional plea to comrades in the alliance to love one another, unconditionally. Alive to deep seated divisions under the umbrella Boko was forced to dig deep into his artistic reserves to convince the masses of opposition followers that the centre remains intact at UDC. Preaching to the converted, Boko spent a better part of his speech lecturing to delegates from alliance partners, which was teetering on the brink of a split ahead of the maiden congress, about the beauty and power of giving and receiving love. Boko fed his detractors, who have been waiting on the wings to witness a fall-out between him and Advocate Sidney Pilane of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a humble pie. It was not to be. Boko deflated war mongers smarting for a fight when cautioned that he will not allow anybody to bully the BMD which has been going through political turmoil. To this end there will be no discussion about constituency allocation at the congress because there is no empirical evidence to support claims that the BMD does not have sufficient membership to contest 2019 general elections. A teary eyed Boko said of BMD: “I have held them by hand during difficult times when they were under immense criticism from some of you. Some called on me to kick them out but I did not preach hatred rather love.” Following their leader – the self-confessed gladiator – UDC leadership from the four alliance partners BMD, BPP, BCP and BNF presented a united front before the masses clad in the royal blue regalia. In their midst, equally clad in deeper shades of blue was their guest of honour, ferocious Leader of Democratic Alliance (DA) of South Africa, Mmusi Maimane.
Maimane, who is also the leader of opposition has called on opposition parties in Southern Africa to unite and work together to liberate their countries. He said liberation movements that gained freedom for their countries are now tired and must be replaced. “The liberation movements that spearheaded the various struggles for independence across the continent are discovering that they can no longer extract loyalty through their old stories alone. Their people have learnt that struggle stories don’t build schools, houses and roads. Struggle stories don’t look after public money. Struggle stories don’t grow the economy and create jobs,” he said to the applause of the delegates. He said liberation movements have failed to translate into capable and honest governments, and are now small elites that will do anything to protect access to the spoils of power. Maimane's utterances come after the top leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) led by its then Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and former South African National Intelligence Agency boss Billy Masetlha visited the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in April 2017 allegedly to caution the latter that there is a third force planning to help the opposition in the region to topple liberation movements. Maimane called on UDC members to fight for democratic change in the country when both South Africa and Botswana go to the polls next year and face prospects of change. He said in both countries, the long-dominant ruling party has weakened to a point where it risks losing power nationally. And in both our countries, a vibrant new cooperation between opposition parties has given the people hope for a fresh start, he said.
Maimane, whose party DA has an alliance with Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)through Liberal International, urged UDC members to fight using every single democratic avenue available as they are the custodians of the country’s democracy. “Our success in ushering in post-liberation eras for our respective countries will determine the kind of societies we leave behind for our children,” he said. He cautioned UDC leaders to be vigilant and safeguard the people’s resources from the greedy and the selfish. Maimane called on UDC to champion the rights of ordinary citizens. On coalition, he advised the UDC that it won’t be easy but should be encouraged to work together by a goal that is bigger than them, adding that even in South Africa they don’t always agree with their coalition partners on many issues but always managed to find ways of working together. “This is, for the foreseeable future, where our hope lies – in coalitions and alliances formed around collective values. Yes, we may have our differences. I am sure that many of you in this room do not agree on everything. But that’s not important. What is important is that you can agree on the things that matter most: uplifting your people, fighting poverty, creating jobs, growing the economy and safeguarding the people’s money,” he encouraged.