• UDC crumbles under Boko
• BNF regions push motion of no confidence
• Want out of UDC coalition, infighting deteriorates
• BCP moves to pull out; feel betrayed
• Hero of opposition unity turns villain
The odds are stacked against Duma Gideon Boko, the man once touted as the Messiah of opposition politics, who made history in 2014 leading a united front to near-victory against the well-resourced ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
In just four months the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will open registration for 2019 General Elections, and time is running out for Boko to make hard decisions to bring peace within warring camps under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) – a coalition between Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). The call on Boko to man up and save the UDC from falling apart is a repeat of the one made before the BMD imploded in Bobonong, leading to the formation of a break away Alliance for Progressives (AP).
Now, with each passing day Boko's allure is fading, overshadowed by growing instability and disagreement within the opposition ranks, both in the coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and within his party Botswana National Front (BNF). He is the president of both movements. While he is accused of failing to keep umbrella partners glued together in the turbulence ahead of the next general elections in 2019, his detractors at Kopano are calling him out, insisting that he should exercise leadership and be decisive.
Others have totally given up on him only awaiting an opportunity to remove him, with some regions alleged to be lobbying for a motion of no confidence to remove Boko as BNF leader and replace him with a more credible leader ahead of 2019. Not for the first time, Boko is accused of being aloof and refusing to listen to his own comrades but only to himself; which has left many aggrieved. In hopelessness, more and more followers are resigning themselves to the reality that no regime change will happen in 2019, at least not with the same kind of leadership and a divided opposition. The project is on the brink of total collapse, only holding by a thread.
Cracks within the alliance started showing ahead of the Boipuso hall congress with contrasting statements from the partners about the congress. A day before the congress BCP President, who is also the UDC Vice President, told journalists that it was going to be a decisive congress and that one of the issues to be discussed was the issue of having two VPs as it was causing confusion. Contrary to that, BMD insisted that the meeting was just a consultative congress and no resolutions will be taken. To the shock of BNF and BCP delegates, when addressing the congress Boko took the side of BMD and almost accused other contracting partners of trying to expel BMD from the coalition. This is said to have sowed mistrust between Dumelang Saleshando and Boko with the former feeling betrayed as he was almost certain that the latter was on his side.
Although some deny it, the BNF membership is also deeply divided with some calling for the removal of Boko. He is blamed for neglecting the party, disregarding elected leadership by making unilateral decisions and alienating strategic partners of the umbrella, particularly Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Workers Union (BOFEPUSU). The federation leadership – who are the brainchild behind a united opposition, which culminated in the UDC partnership dubbed moono – is dominated by BNF members. They too have never forgiven Boko after he disrespected them at that ill-fated meeting when they asked about reports of divisions within the leadership of the coalition. That the most influential BOFEPUSU leaders, led by former BNF councillor for Kgale ward Johnson Motshwarakgole, are sympathetic to Ndaba and his AP is a no brainer.
BNF spokesperson Justin Hunyepa dismissed the allegations that there are calls within the party for them to withdraw from the UDC, which threatens to compromise them. “There were voices at the UDC Congress having those views. The issue ended at the congress,” he said, adding that even the party’s Central Committee has not discussed the issue. “That propaganda is peddled by people who want to cause confusion within the coalition,” said Hunyepa.
Asked if the UDC national executive committee has ever met since the Boipuso Hall congress in February, Hunyepa answered in negative but was quick to add that it is expected to meet next week Tuesday.
Fresh information gathered has revealed that due to the betrayal of Saleshando by Boko, some high ranking BCP members have advised the party leadership to tread carefully on pulling out of the UDC. “This thing happened in 2010 when we agreed with BNF that we will pull out of the Umbrella 1 and they will follow suit so that we form our own alliance without BMD. Like the saying goes, the rest is history,” said a source, referring to the propaganda against the BCP ahead of 2014 that they were anti-unity.
BCP is said to be insisting that BNF lead the way by pulling out of the UDC first, lest a repeat of 2010 occurs. “BNF members approached us that if we pull out of the UDC they will also inform Boko that they are also leaving and won’t have a choice but agree with the masses. Now the tricky part is that we cannot trust them anymore hence we want them to lead the way,” said the highly placed BCP member.
After the 2014 humiliation, the BCP had banked on presenting themselves as the best suitor, because of the numerical superiority over all other opposition parties in the UDC after BNF. Despite contributing in no small measure for failure by the opposition to topple the BDP in 2014 General Elections by refusing to join the umbrella coalition, the BCP strategy was to exploit the chaos at the BMD at the time to worm themselves into the UDC fold. So hurried was their acceptance that they even ignored to formalise the relationship through signing documents that define the marriage. For an extended period they remained in a casual relationship, yet the BCP fancied themselves as kingpins and stopped short of trying to dictate terms. It was therefore not surprising when the BCP immediately took over the Vice Presidency at UDC, and went further to roll out a plan that was to be an ouster for BMD from the other vice president position.
For the first time there were suggestions that there has to be one Vice president, accompanied by a growing cacophony of voices questioning the legitimacy of the membership of the BMD within the UDC. The BCP functionaries sponsored a narrative that following the departure of AP Pilane's BMD did not have the requisite membership to continue to hold 17 constituencies allocated before their split and therefore demanded an audit. It was only through the intervention of Boko in the nick of time who won the BMD some reprieve, declaring that the Boipuso congress was only consultative and no binding resolutions will be taken. It was a slap in the face for the BCP. More and more, Boko has been accused of frolicking with his lawyer colleague at the expense of everybody else within the UDC and even his own comrades at the BNF.
The BCP has also misconstrued Boko's declaration that constituencies allocated to coalition partners remain under ownership of the alliance and that UDC leadership has powers to vet out some candidates. “Even after each party elects their preferred candidate, we will scrutinize the candidates and replace those we deem not fit enough by those we think can win it for us from any party under the UDC,” he said, raising hopes within the BCP that he was on their side. BCP Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse – who is seen as being very close to Boko – has denied that they will be bolting out of UDC.
Now BCP activists have joined the bandwagon, accusing Boko of being in cahoots with BMD at the expense of their relationship. The BCP is concerned about the close relationship between Boko and Pilane, and the protection the latter enjoys from the former. They had counted on Boko supporting them in the move to have Pilane and his BMD expelled from the coalition.
BCP's biggest interest is the re-allocation of constituencies which will favour them because in their view they have more members than the current BMD. They want to force a membership audit to achieve this, as time is running out for their President Dumelang Saleshando to identify a constituency for 2019. They also want Saleshando as the sole UDC Vice President. On the other hand, Pilane remains unshaken, clinging to constitutional provisions that define the relationship of coalition partners under the umbrella. Boko's indifference to BCP frustrates their intentions, hence their decision to bolt out of the coalition.
BMD Publicity Secretary Winfred Rasina said they are aware of allegations that some of the contracting partners want to bolt out of the coalition. Put to him that one of the reasons for some contracting partners to leave the UDC is because the BMD is refusing to give some constituencies to their parties, Rasina laughed off the suggestion as a joke. “We were given 14 constituencies to manage on behalf of UDC. If any of the contracting partners want our constituencies they must approach the UDC with such a proposal. We are not aware of any such proposal,” he said.
The crumble of UDC is partly fuelled by the change of guard at Office of the President and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) where veteran democrat Slumber Tsogwane has replaced Mokgweetsi Masisi as party Chairman. Masisi has in turn taken over the reigns as state president, replacing Ian Khama whose term ended on March 31. With Khama gone, most BMD and AP members no longer have an enemy per se at the BDP. It is an open secret that the original BMD was formed by disgruntled members of the Barata Phathi faction of the BDP following a crackdown by Khama to annihilate divisions, which saw the expulsion of the then newly elected Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi. Being meek and having successfully avoided being tainted by factionalism, which reached its peak in the BDP in his presence, Tsogwane presents a breath of fresh air that promises to spruce up the party image. Ordinary masses in the hinterlands can relate to him, himself representing a far flung constituency in Boteti. This creates an impression that indeed the BDP is for everyone, dispelling growing discontent within the party that it had been hijacked by opportunistic businessmen.
Long before he took over state presidency, Masisi has never hidden his love for Ndaba Gaolathe and the desire to bring him back into the BDP fold and Government. This is a spectacle to watch without holding breath.
Already, Masisi has made his intentions clear about appointing young Batswana to positions of leadership by making 31 year old Bogolo Kenewendo Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry. He recently revealed that they are still pursuing Ndaba to lure him back. Anything is possible, going forward. The injection of fresh blood renews hope for a BDP that belongs to the masses at grassroots level, which used to be the party strength during the times when it was led by heavyweights in the mould of Sir Ketumile Masire, Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and more. The grassroots masses have always represented campaign fodder and a large voting brigade for the BDP, which only changed during Khama's reign despite the latter's populist philanthropist pet projects. Popular as he was, particularly among ordinary people, Khama failed to save the BDP from a split and a decline in popular vote which saw the party remain in power thanks to the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system after it only managed 46%.
Meanwhile, activists from the Alliance for Progressives (AP) are having the last laugh, enjoying front row as spectators of the unfolding saga. To them, it is de javu! They have not forgotten that sad morning in Bobonong at the ill-fated congress when they were literally thrown to the dogs in a bloodbath that pitted one comrade against another comrade. Licking their wounds after the bloodbath, it finally dawned on the Ndaba camp that they were an unwanted lot in the steaming bromance that was growing between Boko and his new found ally, Advocate Sidney Pilane. They were treated as irritants in opposition ranks, and banished to the side-lines like that Biblical child with leprosy.
AP members have never forgiven Boko since the time they were cornered by the marauding Sidney Pilane faction until they bolted out of the BMD and subsequently the UDC. To this day, many still believe Boko mishandled and failed to unite warring camps in the BMD, which led to the formation of AP when the Ndaba camp could no longer withstand the onslaught from their comrades wielding the constitution as their major attack weapon. Blinded by resuscitated comradeship with Pilane and the arrival of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) under the umbrella, Boko failed to broker peace leaving the BMD factions to tear at each in Bobonong, they said.