Opposition minority, the Alliance for Progressives (AP), is grappling with an invitation from the coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) after the latter requested a formal meeting to facilitate possible cooperation talks ahead of the 2019 general elections.
AP Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale confirmed the position in an interview on Friday, saying they received a letter written by UDC leader Duma Boko addressed to their president Ndaba Gaolathe. He noted that the essence of the letter, among other things, requests for a meeting to discuss prospects for the AP joining the Umbrella for Democratic Change.
Dr Butale said as the party Secretary General he does not have powers to respond to the UDC proposal directly because the process should proper proceedure with relevant decision making structures, being the Executive and Central Committee. He said they are yet to convene a meeting before delivering a formal response to UDC. He would, however, not be drawn into explaining how long the AP will take to respond to the UDC invitation, or to state if they are willing to consider any form of cooperation going forward.
The Gaborone Central MP said the issue is a sensitive matter that needs to be handled with respect and confidentiality it deserves. “We have known on several occasions that UDC have shown interest to work with us. This is mostly discussed in the public domain. Yes we received UDC cooperation talks proposal letter by its leader and will revert when the party’s relevant organs have made a decision on the matter. This is very sensitive issue as I have mentioned before," charged Butale.
The invitation for AP to join the coalition comes shortly after UDC expelled their recalcitrant partner the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), whose leadership had attracted a lot of negativity and criticism from the general public over its conduct. Now with cap in hand, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is proposing reconciliation after failing to mediate a fallout that saw a faction of the BMD bolt out to form the AP. A protracted standoff between opposing camps in the then BMD ended in bloodshed during an ill-fated congress in Bobonong while the UDC leadership watched from the sidelines refusing to be drawn into the dispute. With the Sidney Pilane led BMD now deposed, AP have become an attractive suitor to add the numbers to the coalition.
Coalition spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa said in a statement on the resolutions taken at a recent UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, that the BMD had not appealed its expulsion in terms of the UDC constitution and that the time frame within which they should have appealed has expired. "Regrettably, the effect of this is that they are now no longer members of the UDC. As the UDC we are not celebrating this development. We had wished that the BMD would have behaved in a way that helps grow the UDC brand. To us a united opposition is important, but what is more important is unity not just in words but in words, deeds and appearance. The UDC unfortunately had to act to protect the people's project," wrote Mohwasa.
Mohwasa said NEC had resolved to invite the AP to join the coalition because their mandate and objectives have always been and will continue to be to unite all opposition parties where possible. He reiterated that the UDC was formed to bring together all the forces intent on ensuring meaningful change of government. "It remains our hope that the AP will respond favourably to our advances," said Mohwasa.
Consequent of the expulsion of the BMD, the UDC is saddled with vacant constituencies that are yet to be filled by candidates from the coalition partners. Mohwasa reiterated UDC NEC position regarding the vacant seats that had been allocated to the BMD, saying NEC will make a determination on them.
Dr Butale has expressed disappointment and questioned the sincerety of the UDC after the contents of the letter written to AP President suddenly appeared in the media long before the intended recipient had seen its contents.
To emphasise the disappointment, Dr Butale issued a statement on Thursday castigating the UDC for their conduct. He condemned the leak of such serious matters saying it is highly premature and inappropriate. “Such weighty matters cannot and should not be handled in this matter, unless of course our colleagues wish for it to be a mere PR exercise," reads part of Dr Butale’s statement.
Meanwhile, Dr Butale said the AP is ready to contest the 2019 general elections with or without affiliation to any political coalition. He said AP has been mobilizing campaigns across the country and drilling party philosophy to the candidates and followers. “We are more than ready and the stage is set for us to present to Batswana a promising alternative government, we are ready for the elections on all aspects," added Dr Butale.