Umbrella for Democratic Change and Botswana Congress Party will today (Friday) announce the outcome of their cooperation talks following a week of confusion, chaos and instability between the parties.
After the two parties won the Tsabong and Palapye by-elections against Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) a fortnight ago, there was excitement among both parties’ rank and file that a deal would be announced. Instead the parties dropped a bombshell last week Monday that the announcement was postponed at the eleventh hour. But nothing was communicated and this annoyed some party activists who accused the leaderships of both parties of using delay tactics. It is said the deal was sealed on that Monday and it was agreed that the announcement be held today (Friday) as a roadmap to 2019. The parties want to unseat BDP which has been in power for the past 50 years.
“We are going to announce what has been happening at the talks. The deal is almost finished and we are very excited that the dream to unseat BDP is coming into reality now. We will be announcing what parties have agreed so far. We have learnt a lot from the talks that the time is now for opposition parties to take power,” said the source. BCP spin-doctor, Dithapelo Keorapetse confirmed that there is going to be a press conference at Oasis Motel today (Friday). He did not want to shed light on the deal. “Everything will be communicated at the press conference. I am sorry I cannot share further details,” said Keorapetse. His counterpart, UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said he is not aware of any developments.
Botswana Guardian is reliably informed that the four presidents met early this week in Francistown to map a way forward and reconcile their differences over the “unfortunate incident” that led to the last-minute cancelation of the talks. The four Presidents - Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana Peoples Party, Dumelang Saleshando (BCP) Ndaba Gaolathe of Botswana Movement for Democracy and Duma Boko (BNF) attended the Francistown meeting. However it is believed that the four presidents have agreed to create a position for Dumelang Saleshando of the BCP to become the second vice president of the UDC. The UDC will thus have two vice presidents in Gaolathe and Saleshando while Boko will remain the president.
The parties have apparently agreed to ditch the UDC+ name and retain just the UDC.
BCP executive committee was updated on the matter during a meeting Tuesday while the UDC leadership met on Wednesday. One of the issue that was delaying the talks was allocation of positions for parties. The negotiations between UDC and BCP have been characterised by controversy due to the not so good relationship between BCP and BMD. BMD and BCP have not been in good books since the collapse of the first negotiations dubbed Umbrella 1 in 2011.
In 2015, BCP wrote to UDC declaring their readiness to commence the cooperation talks. BCP was given the green light to engage with the UDC by its 14 regions following countrywide consultations. A few months into talks in 2016 they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on how to cooperate in by-elections in the build-up to 2019 general election.
Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has been instrumental in the cooperation talks between opposition parties since 2011, which urging culminated in the formation of UDC. Some meetings were even held at the federation’s office in Gaborone.
“We cannot go into details of the letter for cooperation and the MoU. The media and public can only know the MoU proposal draft after our friends from the UDC have made their input and we both finalise the MoU. So, for now the document has to remain confidential. But what I can say is that the MoU is a much-improved version of the previous one that we had as opposition parties,” Keorapetse said when the talks started.
BCP expressed its interest to cooperate with the UDC during the former’s Kanye congress in July 2015. The congress resolved that the party should engage the UDC for cooperation talks. The duo after the by-election for Goodhope-Mabule Constituency in August 2015 entered a gentleman’s agreement for cooperation in all the by-elections that will occur before the 2019 general election.