Mistrust rocks UDC

Nicholas Mokwena - BG reporter
Monday, 20 March 2017
Mistrust rocks UDC

The Opposition coalition deal remains on shaky grounds. The marriage between Botswana Congress Party (BCP)and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) might have been declared done and sealed but the four opposition parties involved are not lying on the same bed. Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has emerged as a suspect behind the controversial additional four constituencies demand made by Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).

Four opposition parties Botswana Congress Party (BCP), BMD, BPP and Botswana National Front (BNF) have formed a united front with the aim of ending Botswana Democratic Party’s five-decade rule. The four parties unveiled their new movement, UDC, after BCP joined the other trio that had been working together. Following the announcement of the new UDC, excitement filled many little knowing that what had transpired behind closed doors was not what has been portrayed publicly by the leadership.
The allocation of constituencies, which has been a thorny issue, is refusing to set the UDC free. It is alleged that the decision by the BPP Central Committee at its recent meeting to push for an additional four constituencies was masterminded by BMD. BPP has been allocated four constituencies.

Sources say that the acrimonious relationship between BCP and BMD, which dates back to 2011 when the first attempt for coalition between opposition parties failed, is the root cause. BMD is said to be bitter that BCP has been given more constituencies and is trying with all it has to reduce the BCP numbers. BCP has been allocated 17 constituencies within the 40 allocated to UDC.

In terms of the constituency allocations, the UDC president Duma Boko revealed that inside the UDC, the BNF gets 22 constituencies, BMD 14 and the BPP four (4) constituencies. Information passed to this publication shows that of the additional four constituencies demanded by BPP, three belong to BCP being Francistown West, Nata-Gweta and Mmadinare while one belongs to BNF being Gaborone South. In all these constituencies, the BPP did not field a candidate in the previous elections.

“What also raises eyebrows is that the BPP has not asked for a constituency from the BMD. And it is known that the BMD has all along been skeptical about us joining the UDC. They just want to dilute the BCP influence. Why can’t the BPP request to be allocated from the 40 constituencies of the UDC and leave our 17 constituencies alone? We have compromised and given the Tati East which was to be given to the BCP”, said a senior BCP official who preferred anonymity.

It is alleged that the BMD hatched the plan so that it would become the biggest victor in the end. A source who was also part of the constituency allocation negotiating team suspects that should the BPP emerge victorious the constituencies would likely be handed over to the BMD under a provision of the agreement. The source wondered why BPP chose the constituencies that it had not fielded a candidate in nor seconded the BDP in the last election?

BPP did not field a candidate in Mmadinare, Gaborone South and Nata-Gweta while it came third under the UDC ticket in Francistown West. A provision has been made that where a party that has been allocated a particular constituency is not able to identify a suitable candidate, it will be expected to approach the other parties for assistance in that regard. The provision allows for trade-offs where necessary between the parties (BCP, BMD, BNF and BPP).

It is suspected that the BMD intends to exploit this provision and use its presence and numbers in those constituencies to persuade BPP to trade-off those constituencies. BMD Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi has described as “an insult” the insinuation that the BPP leadership would make that demand under pressure from BMD.

“We are not in a position to undermine the leadership of the BPP. That is an insult to the leadership of BPP and the party in general. BPP has more experience than the BMD especially in opposition politics and we respect that”, said Mmolotsi adding that as the BMD they would not be party to a matter where the BPP integrity is being belittled.BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse told this publication that everything that had to be communicated to the media regarding UDC was done during the unveiling of the new project. He explained that any other issues arising subsequently are “internal matters” that cannot be shared with a third party.

For his part BPP President Motlatsi Molapisi and his deputy Mbaakanyi Lenyatso could not be reached for comment. Political Analyst Anthony Morima says if the constituencies are genuinely demanded by the BPP this would be an own goal for the opposition as prospects of winning in 2019 are negative. Morima stated that looking at the history of the BPP no one really recalls when the party last won a Parliamentary seat. He explained that even if the BPP was to say that they would be relying on support of other partners, it is unlikely that those partners would vote them because of other dynamics. The analyst argues that the BPP should rather be concentrating on taking advantage of the new UDC to rebuild itself.

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