A structure made up of party veterans is believed to be frustrated by the BNF’s decision to participate in the Umbrella and is calling for the party to review its participation within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Central to the veterans’ concerns is the newly registered UDC symbol that does not include the BNF symbols. BNF declined to confirm the Francistown meeting on Saturday, but those close to the protracted tension explain that the Francistown meeting follows a decision by party activists around the country who converged in Morwa last week to form a ‘temporary platform’ that will attempt to ‘save the soul of the BNF.’
The BNF members who attended another meeting this week told this newspaper that the temporary structure was formed to save the BNF from dying under the hands of Duma Boko and his UDC partners. The newly formed structure is said to have the blessings of the BNF councillors and 2014 election candidates. It is however not clear whether the structure has the strength to effect change within the party.
In a letter addressed to the BNF Secretary General Tapiso Kgosikoma and Boko dated 11th January, the concerned party members demand the following:
That the UDC should use the BNF names and symbols in the 2014 general election.
Alternatively, adopt the loose pact model and allow the parties to use their own symbols in the 2014 general election. ….request for the convocation of the BNF extra ordinary national congress on or about the 29-30th March 2014. According to the members of the temporary platform, efforts have been made by some in the central committee to ‘sell the soul’ of the once mighty BNF to the highest bidder. To the sources, the BNF leadership has completely disregarded the resolution of the Mochudi congress in 2010 that advised that the BNF soul be retained when forging working relations with other opposition parties.
“Further the leadership has also disregarded the Mahalapye special congress resolution that endorsed the UDC on condition that the BNF symbols and colours should form part of the UDC disc. This sudden disregard of congress resolutions has not gone well with BNF members who now want BNF members to decide the way forward,” said the source.
According to the BNF members, even though both the Botswana Movement for Democracy and Botswana People Party are not bringing any sizeable members into the opposition cooperation, they are not calling for the BNF to completely withdraw from the umbrella project.
“We are simply saying that these parties are not on an equal footing with the BNF hence they should use our own symbols and colours during the general election,” said a party senior member, preferring not to be named. “If this doesn’t happen, it will be safe to say that the UDC is just a club of friends, who are merely interested in positions. Remember that it was these friends who without calling for a [UDC] congress gave themselves positions within the organization.”
The member further said that it will be cumbersome to start introducing the BNF members to the new symbol a few months before the general election.
“Even to this day we have not been issued with the newly registered symbol. Tell me do you think we have enough time to start educating the masses about these dramatic changes? BNF members who attended the Morwa meeting are of the view that should the party go ahead with the new UDC symbol, it will lose most wards and parliamentary seats. The loss will mean the end of the BNF and we want to make sure that this does not happen,” said another source. The concerned members appear to have won the support of some in the central committee. One BNF member this week told Botswana Guardian that during the last central committee meeting that was held on the 24 November, a resolution was reached to the effect that the party should ask their partners to consider using the BNF symbol at the general election.
“We are surprised that this resolution has not been implemented by the executive committee,” said the source. According to reliable sources, the group has since formed several task forces that are expected to take the anti-umbrella messages to several constituencies around the country. “The BNF constitution allows us to lobby BNF structures to endorse or reject our proposals,” continued the source.