The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) project which ushered a new style of politicking in Botswana, and made history by sending 17 parliamentarians in the last general elections is said to be now standing on shaky ground.
Those close and under the umbrella have revealed that there is an ongoing heated argument regarding the future of UDC and its political ideologies which some are worried that it is swinging to one side. UDC which is an alliance of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was launched in 2012 and many political pundits predicted that it might take power from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2019.
One of the hottest potatoes the party members especially within the BNF and BMD are throwing at each other and proving too hot for both parties to handle is whether the three parties should disband and form one political party. The issue of forming a single opposition party has not gone down well with some members of BNF who feel that BMD want to swallow their party.
First to hit out was Dr Elmon Tafa in a letter to the press accusing the current BNF leaders of trying to disband the party which was never agreed upon by the party members who wanted a United Front. “Though BNF is numerically the biggest party in the UDC its leadership within the UDC is at best, far too weak, and at worst, non-existent, not least because the leadership is not focused on strengthening the BNF,” said Dr Tafa.
Recently when addressing a press conference after their leadership forum held in Francistown, BMD Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi revealed that the three parties are currently in talks on whether to merge and form one political party. He said currently all the three parties have been given the mandate to go and discuss the merger issue with their party members.
According to sources within BNF, this is the possibility of impossibility as most of them don’t want their party to disband. During their leadership forum early this year, BNF members are said to have out rightly rejected the issue of disbanding and forming one party.
Addressing a rally in Tati Siding two weeks ago, UDC President Duma Boko fired salvo at party members especially intellectuals who attack the party through the media.
Recently when addressing the media, Boko revealed that the three parties will still exist on their own and they are all small streams feeding the bigger one which is UDC. On the disbanding of the three parties and forming one, BNF spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa said the position of the UDC is that parties will continue as they are. Asked if they will consider disbanding in future, Mohwasa gave a terse response: “I cannot predict the future".
Political Analyst Ndulamo Morima said that if the issue of whether to disband or not if not handled well it might lead to a split within the UDC especially within BNF. “They need to address this issue as soon as possible and probably by the end of March next year because it is a very sensitive issue,” said Morima.
The main problem according to Morima, is within the BNF as most of its members especially on the far left will not agree with leaving the party’s ideologies for the far right ones.
“There will be problem with mixing the capitalist and socialist ideologies and the resuscitation of Temporary Platform is a signal that the powder keg has now being laid,” he said. Another issue that the three parties must expeditiously according to the political analyst is that it seems the two parties; BNF and BMD are growing while the UDC is stagnant.
“There is a possibility that some parties might use the umbrella to grow their parties and ultimately make it collapse,” he said.
The adage that ‘still water runs deep’ could best describe the situation at UDC as there have been verbal exchanges between BNF and BMD members regarding the leadership of UDC.
There have been talks that some BMD members want Gaolathe to challenge Duma Boko for the party presidency and this has resulted in members of the two organisations taking on each other on social media.
At the BMD leadership forum, party chairman Nehemiah Modubule called on the party members to desist from attacking each on social media. He registered his concern about the attack on members of their alliance partners. Opening the leadership forum, Gaolatlhe rebutted the allegations that he wants to challenge Boko for UDC leadership.
In 2012 when opposition were mooting the idea of political cooperation ahead of the 2014 General Elections, Gaolatlhe wrote a letter which was circulated in the media casting doubt on the cooperation. He observed that, “When two or more organizations merge, it is really the two or more cultures that merge. The merging of cultures, throughout all of history, is a process that takes time – years, not months, and not weeks.”
He continued to observe that it is a fact that the three or four cultures stacked into the ongoing Umbrella concept will create a slow-moving animal once elected to state-power.