In this interview with Botswana Guardian’s Correspondent Edward Bule, opposition Botswana Congress Party’s Secretary General Kentse Rammidi puts a few misconceptions about his party’s relation with the BMD into proper perspective.
BG: There are claims that the president of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko, favours the president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Dumelang Saleshando at the expense of the president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Ndaba Gaolathe in the UDC. What do you know?
KR: In our view there is absolutely no reason why President of the Umbrella for Democracy Hon. Duma Boko should be viewed, perceived or otherwise to favour Mr. Dumelang Saleshando at the expense of Hon. Ndaba Gaolathe because as far as we are concerned there are no issues between the two. So, whoever holds that view is clutching at straws and probably trying to sponsor a division between Mr. Saleshando and Hon Gaolathe.
Q: Specifically, there are complaints that, Boko has been inviting the leadership of the BCP to UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings although the party, according to those complaining, has got no right to sit in those meetings because it has not yet signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). What is your take?
A: There have been no official complaints from any of the UDC contracting partners that President Boko should not invite BCP to UDC National Executive Committee meetings. In accordance with the agreement that was reached between UDC and BCP, a new NEC was to take effect comprising four members from each of the contracting parties. It is for this reason that BCP is a legitimate member and attends UDC NEC meetings. At the announcement of the deal at Oasis Motel in February 2017, there was no mention or promise of any Memorandum of Agreement to be signed. It was announced that an agreement has been sealed and BCP was now a member of UDC. Period.
Q: When is the BCP signing the MOA and what has been the cause of the delay?
A: As far as we are concerned as the BCP there is no memorandum of agreement to sign. This is just a figment of people’s imagination. The agreement was reached on the basis of three aspects, allocation of constituencies, a policy document and a draft constitution that is to be ratified by a constitutional congress. The holding of the congress could be delayed by the resolution of the BMD problems. These documents are the binding contractual documents not a memorandum of agreement.
Q: It appears the BCP and BMD will never see eye to eye. In the run-up to the 2014 general election, the two parties fought over constituencies. This time around, there is an ongoing fight between the two parties over who should, between Gaolathe and Saleshando, be the senior vice president? Are the two parties power-hungry and more concerned with positions than the issues that affect the nation?
A:There was and there is no acrimony between the BCP and BMD. In the run up to 2014 election we disagreed over the allocation of Ramotswa constituency and the matter could not be amicably resolved. We agreed to disagree and the BCP membership directed the leadership to suspend the talks until after election. The issue of senior vice president does not exist since it is not part of the UDC/BCP agreement. Therefore there is no power struggle between the BCP and BMD.
Q: One of the reasons why the Umbrella 1 talks collapsed is that the BCP viewed the BMD with understandable suspicion because the party had never contested an election and therefore its electoral strength was difficult to estimate. The BCP also had problems with the ideological orientation of the BMD it being a splinter of the BDP. Is the party a credible opposition worthy of your time and attention?
A: The BCP never viewed the BMD with any suspicion nor questioned their electoral strength. We are alive to the fact that all numbers count in politics and we are grateful that the BMD is successful in chipping into the BDP votes. The issue of ideological orientation is irrelevant because we have agreed on a policy document that is all-encompassing. For the above reasons BMD remains a valuable partner in the opposition coalition and we hope their problems are resolved.
Q: Some feel that Gaolathe, whose party has got the majority Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UDC but has allowed Boko to be both president of the UDC and Leader of the Opposition(LOO), has sacrificed a lot. In their view, he should be given the position of 1ST vice president of the UDC? Is the BCP amenable to that view?
A: As the BCP we were not part of any arrangement of who becomes Leader of Opposition hence we are constrained to comment. Like I have alluded to in one of the questions the issue of first vice president does not exist and remains personal sentiments of some individuals.
Q: Are you worried that the ongoing season of acrimony within the UDC could compromise opposition chances of winning the 2019 general election? What, as the BCP, do you intend to do to facilitate unity in the Umbrella?
A: There is no acrimony within the UDC but rather differences within the BMD camp. In our view as the BCP the differences are not insurmountable and together with the UDC leadership we are working on a solution. It is true that this is delaying preparations for 2019 but it is a hurdle that we must cross first. We remain hopeful that we shall overcome.
Q: There is a rumour that a new party is about to be announced. Are you worried that the problem of vote splitting among the opposition is upon us again?
A: The rumour of the formation of a new party is worrisome and we say God forbid. Truth be told, a new party will be counterproductive both to the opposition and the aspiration of the majority of Batswana who cast their vote for opposition in 2014. It will be unfortunate and ill advised. Look, I believe this is the time for real leaders to raise their hands and be counted. As we traverse the opposition route we should learn from our past and gain wisdom.