Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), a coalition between four Botswana opposition parties, is on the brink of collapse following key resolutions made by two of the main contracting parties over the weekend.UDC president, Duma Boko is now facing mounting pressure to either let the coalition collapse and let his party, the Botswana National Front initiate talks with Botswana Congress Party (BCP) or unite the warring parties within the umbrella parties—a union dubbed the ‘Peoples Project’.
UDC is an alliance between the Botswana National Front (BNF), BCP, Botswana Peoples Party (BCP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). However it has not been a smooth ride for the contracting parties as they constantly fought about the adoption of an amended constitution and allocation of constituencies.BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando said at the weekend in Bobobong that, “there is no denying that the UDC is broken and needs to be fixed.” He was addressing his party’s 10th National Conference.
The BCP president, who is also the vice president of UDC, told his party members that a new UDC constitution was submitted last Friday to the Department of Civil and National Registration, claims which the BMD and BPP said they were not aware of.
Saleshando said the new constitution was signed by him and Boko. “The question that this conference has to address is how the UDC can be fixed?” said the BCP leader on Saturday. By Monday the conference had given Saleshando all the answers to his questions. The conference resolved that the BCP should remain in the UDC, but directed that due to limited time before registration for the general election, all outstanding matters within the UDC should be resolved by mid-August 2018.The conference also resolved that all constituencies and wards allocated to the BMD except those currently held by their Members of Parliament and councillors should be returned to the UDC for redistribution, a matter which also does not bode well with the BMD.
The party’s spokesperson Winfred Rasina told the Botswana Guardian this week that the BMD has already given away constituencies and they are not willing to give anymore. The BCP argues that UDC has to accept that there has been a split within the BMD following the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and thus the BMD is now weak hence the issue of constituency allocation should be re-looked at and re-allocated to the BNF or BCP.Even though he was of the view that resolutions made by the BCP and the BNF over the weekend need to be tabled before the UDC for further discussion, Rasina said the BCP should also be willing to forfeit some of its constituencies otherwise they will be defeating the purpose of unity and working together.
The BNF has resolved that primary elections should be held in some of the constituencies allocated to the BMD. Regarding the constitution submitted on Friday last week Rasina said the BMD was not party to it. “Our hope is that they have submitted the right constitution,” said Rasina. According to him the right constitution has a provision for two vice presidents within the UDC. However, Saleshando told journalists in Bobonong that the amended constitution has a provision for only one vice president.
“Then they submitted the wrong constitution, maybe it was a mistake from their part,” said Rasina in response to the developments. The BMD spokesperson said the party’s National Working Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter and make appropriate decisions.
According to sources, the UDC constitutional congress which was held in February this year resolved that there be only one vice president instead of two. “They excluded themselves (BMD). They walked out of a meeting that was reviewing the final document because they said they don’t recognise the congress (February UDC congress) resolutions,” said a UDC insider. The source confided to this publication that during the period between 17th May and 20th June UDC made four attempts to meet, but in all these it was only the BCP and BNF representatives who attended.
“Although BPP expressed willingness to attend for some unknown reasons they did not pitch up.The one and only meeting attended by the BMD was on the 25th June 2018 at the offices of the BNF. However the BMD representatives had three objections to the meeting proceeding,” he said. Apparently the BMD argued that the meeting ought to have been convened by the UDC president with clear terms of reference. As a result they will not participate; that the constitution that was discussed at the February congress is not the proper constitution, as the proper constitution is the one produced by the constitutional stream and that they do not recognise the congress as it was meant to humiliate the BMD and it could not lawfully take the resolutions it took.
Said an insider, “We then advised the BMD that we will proceed in terms of the mandate and as we understand it. The BMD team then left the meeting.” Reached for comment BPP President, Motlatsi Molapisi claimed to be in the dark regarding the constitution submitted last week. Molapisi, who maintained that his party has never missed a UDC meeting, said the issue of the constitution was supposed to be finalised at a retreat which was supposed to be held on the 1st to the 3rd of June, but the retreat was never held.
Molapisi could not be drawn into discussing resolutions by the BCP and BNF—the two parties with the largest following within the contracting partners in the UDC.
What is clear now is that there are major differences between the political parties forming the UDC. Saleshando said this week that even though they will try to fix the UDC problems within a month, his party will start direct talks with the BNF forthwith to try to “reconfigure and rethink opposition cooperation.”“We are first going to focus on fixing the UDC, if we can’t fix the UDC, conference has resolved that we must engage the BNF on finding a new formula for 2019,” he said. The BCP is of the view that the opposition votes that the UDC hopes to attract in 2019 are concentrated around the BNF and BCP and thus the two parties have more to lose by not going into 2019 election as a single unit.