A new chapter within the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change is expected to take shape this week as the Registrar of Societies has rejected the party’s constitution.
The Registrar of Societies, Davids Okello-Wengi this week wrote to the UDC Secretary General in response to the two constitutions submitted by the warring parties within the UDC.
The constitution, which has been submitted to the Registrar of Societies, has divided the four UDC constituents of Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP).
BCP and BNF, who submitted an amended constitution to the registrar, are in one corner pitted against BMD and BPP who are opposed to the submitted constitution. Both BCP and BNF set themselves similar deadlines during their respective conferences last month.
BNF resolved that having noted that the new UDC constitution has been filed with the Registrar of Societies, the BNF should ensure that the process is concluded within twenty-one (21) days. The BCP on the other hand resolved that having been appraised and deliberated thereof on the developments within the UDC collective, conference resolved to 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.
Responding to the submitted constitutions, the Registrar said that UDC is not a political party but a cooperation agreement by the four political parties for a common political goal. “All four parties are listed in the schedule, therefore, in our opinion, the registration of UDC’s constitution falls outside the scope of the Act,” reads the letter in part which some within the UDC have described as confusing.
Okello-Wengi described in the letter that the term “society” is defined in Section 3 of the Act to exclude any political party listed in the Schedule of the Act. The Registrar listed the political parties listed in the Schedule to the Act as BMD, BCP, BPP and BNF. “Therefore, the registration of political parties falls outside the scope of the Act,” reads the letter dated 13 August 2018.
It is not yet clear how the four parties within the constitution will react to the Registrar’s letter, however a source within the BCP told this publication that their lawyers will look into the matter and advice.
At press time BCP’s Phillip Monowe, who at the time was not aware of the letter, said as the party they have not been briefed by their representatives at the UDC leadership on progress regarding the constitution and other pending matters.
“Remember the constitution was not the only outstanding issue. We have the issue of wards allocation as well. There are areas where we engage with BNF, BMD and BPP on various wards. So our representatives on these matters would have to brief us after the deadline so that we decide a way forward. It is after these reports that we would be able to give a clear picture of where we stand,” said Monowe.
When addressing the media on Wednesday morning, BNF Secretary General who doubles as UDC Head of Communications, Moeti Mohwasa indicated that they hope to receive response from Registrar by end of day. However, when contacted by this publication at the end of business on Wednesday, Mohwasa said the response had not arrived yet.
Submission and approval of the UDC constitution has been one of the thorny issues that the BCP had long wanted dealt with as a matter of urgency. With both set deadlines having passed it is yet to be seen what would be the next cause of action by the two parties and their colleagues in the coalition. There have been speculations that should the constitution be approved, BMD and BPP would challenge such in court.
The constitution was submitted by UDC President Advocate Duma Boko and his deputy, Dumelang Saleshando who is also President of the BCP. The BMD and BPP have contested the submitted constitution through letters written to the Registrar of Societies.
Mohwasa revealed during the BNF press conference in Gaborone this week that they remain hopeful of a positive feedback. He told the media that proper procedure was followed when the constitution was submitted. According to Mohwasa all the necessary documents have been filed together with the constitution.
Mohwasa insists all procedures were followed to the letter including the signatory issue.
“During a meeting in Polokwane in 2016 it was agreed that negotiations would be between UDC and BCP. There were only two negotiating teams with six people from UDC and six people from BCP. We cannot now say individual parties were negotiating and the four presidents should sign, that would be insincere. Even our streams were just technical teams. UDC team was led by BNF Vice President Dr. Prince Dibeela while the BCP team was led by its Vice President Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang. So people should stop misleading themselves, well I do not know if they are misleading themselves or just undermining the President of the UDC,” said Mohwasa.
“The constitution that has been submitted is the one that was agreed by the people. Authority came from the majority which is the members from all the four parties who gathered at Boipuso Hall in February this year. We cannot have 16 people who make up the UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) deciding for over thousands of people. As the NEC we cannot be seen to stifle things. The Boipuso Congress was the closing chapter of the UDC and BCP negotiations and the same congress which carries more weight than the NEC.”