Power struggle and hunger for power is what has landed Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at loggerheads over the appropriate Constitution to be filed with Registrar of Societies, Botswana Guardian has learnt.
Following the filing of the Constitution by President Advocate Duma Boko and one of the Vice Presidents, Dumelang Saleshando who is also President of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) two UDC contracting partners Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP) wrote objecting letters through their Secretary Generals.
The Constitution submitted by Advocate Boko and Saleshando provided for one Vice President and gave powers to the UDC congress and the President. The Vice President would be the running mate for the president during the general election.
The letters written to the Registrar of Societies indicate that since UDC is made up of four contracting partners the constitution must be signed by all in order to be registered.
On the other hand, the Constitution that the BMD and BPP approve of has provision for two vice presidents. According to the Constitution once UDC is in power 1st Vice President would be the country’s vice president. BMD has all along maintained that it occupies the seat of 1st Vice President within the UDC. The argument has been that BCP is a new comer in the UDC. However, UDC leader Advocate Duma Boko has on several occasions indicated that there is no 1st and 2nd Vice Presidents within the UDC.
He stated that they are all equal but perform different roles. If this Constitution is approved and UDC wins power, BMD leader Advocate Sidney Pilane would be Botswana’s Vice President according to Article 11.2 of the Constitution.
Article 11.4 the Chairperson of the UDC shall be the Senior Minister of the cabinet of Republic of Botswana when UDC is in power. BPP President Motlatsi Molapisi is UDC Chairman.
This means when UDC attains power, Molapisi would be minister for presidential affairs. It is yet to be seen what would be the way forward once the Registrar of Societies has acted on all the documents before his office.
Botswana National Front President Advocate Duma Boko says this week he is expecting a team of experts who will do a survey for his party regarding next year’s general election. Advocate Boko stated that this is part of his strategy as leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to topple ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from government. He revealed that he recently engaged experts to do a study for UDC on what should be done to win the 2019 general election.
“They have given me a report. According to their report 34 percent of electorates are aligned with the UDC. Most of these people are the youth. Next year is for regime change and if we cannot change government then we are wasting our time. The report has recommended that we should target this group of people and ensure that the message we are going to craft for general election speaks to them. They would be here to do thorough analysis,” said Advocate Boko who accepted that there are problems in the UDC.
He said the UDC contracting partners need each other desperately. He said the UDC would engage in precision marketing in order to win the general election. He said challenges at UDC are unique and resolving them needs to be approached with care. The UDC leader told BNF conference in Rakops during President Holidays that as a collective they have to identify problems at UDC. He explained that after identifying the problems then they have to come up with diagnostic treatment.
“I have been under attack for refusing the kicking out of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) from the UDC. I was not refusing just because I wanted to. I told you that to do such we would be creating more problems in the UDC. I told you that it would be unlawful to do that. I said we should find another way of dealing with the matter. I accept all the insults that were hurled at me by you,” he said.
He said as the party the BNF needs to have vibrant constituencies, wards and regions. Advocate Boko revealed that the ten regions would be coordinating the 2019 general election. The UDC leader pointed out that the BNF has to decide if they want to be considered the backbone of the UDC or the belly of the movement. “If you want to be regarded as the backbone of the UDC, then you would have to act like one,” he said. Advocate Boko stated that they have to face the challenges bedeviling the UDC.
BNF is currently at loggerheads with BMD over constituencies. The BNF conference sent a strong message to the BMD when it resolved that there should be primary elections in all BMD constituencies and wards except constituencies where BMD is incumbent. Out of the 13 constituencies, BMD is only incumbent in two constituencies being Molepolole South and Mochudi West.
The BMD however has already chosen candidates for most of its constituencies and wards. BNF conference resolved that ‘noting that after several and consistent requests BNF made to have a bilateral with BMD to address the representation issues, BMD has consistently not been responsive. We therefore resolve that there should be joint primary elections under the UDC in all the parliamentary and council seats allocated to the BMD in 2014, except where it holds incumbency. If this fails, then the BNF should assume the leadership of these constituencies and wards. The UDC Congress would be the final arbiter if the above two do not succeed.’ BMD has in the past indicated that it would only have bilateral talks with their colleagues if any party interested in some of its constituencies should be prepared to swap.
Botswana National Front (BNF) President Advocate Duma Boko has finally briefed his National Executive Committee about his intentions to fund the party’s upcoming conference in Rakops Village next month.
BNF Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa revealed on Wednesday this week. He said the president briefed them during a central committee meeting on Tuesday. The BNF leader had written a letter to regions revealing that he intends to fund the conference by transporting and feeding delegates while at the conference. The BNF conference is hosted by North Central Region and will be held in Rakops village from 14th to 17th of July 2018. Advocate Boko has declined to reveal the source of the funds.
He explained that as opposition they have to protect their funders because ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) might come for them and harass them. He said he always gets funds from his personal friends and has never used the BNF or Umbrella for Democratic Change names to source funding from his friends locally and internationally. He said all BNF Central Committee members should be fundraisers.
BNF Treasurer Noah Salakae would not be drawn into discussing the matter with the media. He said the issue of the conference is handled by party Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa. “Mohwasa is the one dealing with the matter. Myself would be just waiting for him to give me a report to tell me how much they would need for the conference then I can release such funds,” said Salakae. Salakae who is also Member of Parliament for Ghanzi North said preparations are however progressing well for the conference.
Mohwasa told the media on Wednesday that Advocate Boko briefed the central committee about his intentions.
According to Mohwasa all those who would have been selected at ward level to attend the conference would have to register with office of the secretary general. He said this would make it easy to know how many people would be in need of transport to the conference. He said a party they would not rely entirely on the president’s gesture but would have to also contribute because the conference is “a party activity”. “Anyone is free to assist anyway they can to fund any party activity. There is nothing wrong with what the president is doing as long as he has declared. At times it does not have to going through the Treasurer.
The aim is to have a successful conference where resolutions would be made. This is decisive conference because we are going for general election next year,” Mohwasa stated. He indicated that at this point they would not state their budget for the conference because preparations are still ongoing. He said this would only be know during the conference and after because of some of the matters that may arise.
In the letter seen by this publication, which Boko has copied to Mohwasa, he called on the regions to prepare well in time so that a proper account for logistics could be made. Boko wrote, “my intention is to provide transportation for all the delegates to the conference and to feed them while there without them having to spend anything. This will relieve the pressure on the delegates themselves as well as the local leadership. It will also ensure that we get maximum attendance at the conference as we position ourselves for the upcoming National Elections.”
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Advocate Duma Boko says he has everything under control despite claims that the ship is sinking under his watch.
Critics have been vocal that Advocate Boko, who is also President of Botswana National Front, (BNF) is failing his party and the coalition movement. His poor leadership and failure to work with other members of his central committee came under the spotlight when former BNF Youth League President Khumoekae Richard lambasted his once close ally.
Richard has even labelled Advocate Boko a dictator who cannot liberate Batswana. Richard and some members of the BNFYL have since joined newly-formed Alliance for Progressives (AP).
These critics, according to Advocate Boko, would not shake him. “I know they go around saying things about me. Whatever they are saying about me has made me strong. This is not the first time I have been under this litmus test. I used to be there and I managed to come out victorious and the BNF and the UDC came out of that storm more united and this is what is going to happen,” said Boko in a short interview with this publication. He revealed that he has told both the BNF and UDC supporters not to worry about him.
“At night I sleep peacefully. I suspect those who are making noise do not get a sleep. I have been through rough times and cannot be bothered by some small talks. At the UDC and BNF we are serious and cannot be derailed by small talks that would not change the lives of Batswana,” he told this publication before reiterating his statement at BNF Women League Elective Congress in Kanye over the weekend.
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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.
It is now official; Botswana Movement for Democracy virus has spread into the opposition coalition - Umbrella for Democratic Change whose leadership appears divided over the Orange Movement.
Contracting partners of the UDC- Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this week Wednesday held a scheduled meeting at Oasis Hotel in Tlokweng to discuss among others, the problems afflicting their colleague, the BMD.
The BMD is currently paralysed after the party held parallel elective congresses in Bobonong where two different National Executive Committees were elected.
On Wednesday a fractured UDC executive committee met at Oasis to deliberate on the BMD issue. Botswana Guardian can safely confirm that BPP was not part of the meeting. Only the BCP and the BNF convened in the meeting that started at 10:30AM and was adjourned at 12:30PM.
The meeting was attended by among others BNF President Duma Boko and Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa, BCP President Dumelang Saleshando and UDC’s Treasurer Dennis Alexander and Taolo Lucas who is UDC’s additional member from the BCP.
According to the current UDC agreement, each party has been given one slot for an additional member to the UDC Executive Committee. It has since emerged that the BPP snubbed the meeting in support of the expelled BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe.
Gaolathe has been expelled together with his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi. According to sources, the Gaolathe faction met on Tuesday night in Gaborone at Falcon Crest and agreed with BPP to snub Wednesday’s UDC meeting.
The possibility of forming a new party was discussed at the aforesaid meeting. BPP, especially its leader Motlatsi Molapisi, is a known staunch supporter of Gaolathe. It is said that at the Tuesday meeting the Gaolathe-led faction promised to work with BPP once a new party is formed. The Gaolathe faction has left three options open; going to court; wait for UDC intervention or form a new party.
The majority agreed that they should wait for the outcome of the UDC leadership but if it does not favour them then a new party should be formed. The meeting came after Gaolathe BMD NEC addressed party members this past weekend. Out of the 12 addressed regions, nine (9) called for the formation of a new party, Botswana Guardian has established.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian over the phone after the meeting BPP President who is also UDC Chairman claimed ignorance of the meeting. “I am in Francistown as we speak and I know nothing about the meeting. I was never informed about the meeting. Mohwasa only called me this morning asking how far I am and I told him I know nothing about the meeting or even the agenda,” said the veteran politician.
He dismissed claims that they snubbed the meeting because they are in support of Gaolathe. He stated that the reason why there is even no one other than him from the BPP attending the meeting clearly shows that there was no communication to the BPP about the meeting. Molapisi has been vocal about the need for intervention by UDC leadership in the BMD mess.
UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa confirmed that BPP did not make it to the meeting. Mohwasa however said there could have been a misunderstanding of the invitations to the meeting.
“When I enquired they explained that they did not understand the context of the communication. They said they did not know if only presidents are to attend or all members of the executive should attend,” said Mohwasa.
The UDC spokesperson stated that the BMD matter formed part of the agenda but could not be dealt with because the BPP was not in attendance. He explained that BMD could not be part of the meeting because of the party’s current situation.
“So our next meeting would be held on the 12th of August in Francistown where the BMD matter would be discussed. The only thing we discussed about the BMD issue is that on top of receiving two reports from both groups, we have also received a letter from the other group from its Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale asking for UDC intervention. So what would be happening (is that) we would be writing to the other group to inform them about this development and ask for their input,” said Mohwasa adding that all the three parties will attend the Francistown meeting.
BMD-Gaolathe led NEC Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale could not be reached for comment at press time. Part of the problems that the UDC is facing is disagreements between BCP and BMD which date back to 2012. Under the current arrangement BMD is said to have been against BCP joining the UDC. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when the BCP was given the 17 constituencies and Vice Presidency of the UDC.
At one point when BPP wanted three of BCP’s constituencies it was alleged to be acting in cahoots with BMD with the aim that BPP would later hand them to BMD. BPP enjoyed the support of the BMD during the first Umbrella negotiations, which founded UDC in 2012. BMD at that time was said to have been considering having BPP under its wing through group membership.
Contrary to claims in opposition circles that leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate Duma Boko is leaning towards his vice President Ndaba Gaolathe, there seems to be a shift.
There has been a belief that ever since the fracas at Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) played out in the open its President Ndaba Gaolathe who has been at loggerheads with his National Executive Committee (NEC) could be enjoying the support of Boko.
Boko who is also the President of Botswana National Front (BNF) this week could not say it in many words or in specifics his disagreement with Gaolathe in dealing with the BMD mess. Reading into his message this week when addressing members of the media, Boko is a firm believer of defending the Constitution- be it of the country or an organisation.
The mess at BMD has resulted in the political movement having two NECs following two parallel elective congresses held in Bobonong over the President’s Holidays. Gaolathe leads one while Advocate Sidney Pilane leads the other. The two factions last week submitted their reports and list of NEC members to the UDC to be recognised.
Seized with the two reports, Advocate Boko said the UDC would now be dealing with the matter to resolve it. The Pilane led NEC has indicated that Gaolathe together with his Vice, Wynter Mmolotsi and others were suspended and subsequently expelled from the party in accordance with the party Constitution. At that time party Chairman who stated that he is the defender of the Constitution revealed that Gaolathe and company had violated the Constitution and no one is bigger than the BMD and its Constitution.
In contrast, Gaolathe and his team believed in having political engagement with the masses. They explained that their focus would be to address the members on the status of the party rather than to focus on the Constitution. Their argument was that the congress would deal with the differences within the party.After the Bobonong events many still believed the UDC leader could favour the Gaolathe led NEC in any form. Things came out clear this week when Boko indicated that leaders should always ensure that they are not involved in any entanglement. “This is because when those who are fighting have to come to you for solution, you would not be able to assist. You would not assist the situation because you are already conflicted,” said Advocate Boko.
He explained that what is happening at BMD once happened at BNF and he managed to defend the organisation within and even at the courts of law. “We have to look at what the law is saying before we consider the political side of the matter. We have to conduct ourselves in accordance with the Constitution. When we had problems at BNF I was pounding on the facts and the law.
“As a leader I have to not be involved in any faction. I have to stay clean because these things would come to me so I would have to not be aligned so that I would focus on facts. If you are in the thick of it then you cannot see things through. Do not descend into the arena of conflict. As a leader you have to separate feelings from what the constitutional dispensation says,” said Boko.
He explained that his assignment at the BMD would not be to dismember the organisation. He said his mission, as the BNF leader is to unite the opposition parties hence his firm belief that the UDC leadership would be able to put an end to the BMD current situation. Advocate Boko has defended his stance on the constitutional obligation saying he is not overrating the law.
“We are in bondage to the law even though we might not like it. The law governs everything about us. The law allows what can you do or not do. We are slaves of the law. The law is already over bearing on us so we must understand that. We are taking cognisance of the law and not overrating it,” he stated. While the Pilane-led faction believes in remaining faithful to the constitution their counterparts have maintained that the constitution is a piece of paper that can be tossed aside in favour of political action. It was further argued that in the build-up to the Bobonong congress, party Chairman Nehemiah Modubule was focusing on the constitution at the expense of the interests of BMD masses.
The BMD situation got out of hand after the youth congress that was held in Ramotswa in April this year which was said to be unlawful. The congress resulted in Gaolathe and others being suspended from the party and the suspended undertook meetings across the country dismissing their suspensions and pleading with party members to heavily punish Modubule and company by voting them out of office at the Bobonong congress. It was argued that it was wrong for NEC to suspend and expel the party president. Modubule maintained that they were following laid down party procedure.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Duma Boko has said that the factional wars at Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) are a true test for the party’s stability. Boko appealed to members of the UDC especially, to allow the BMD to resolve its issues without interference.
Boko, who was officially opening a Botswana Congress Party Youth League (BCPYL) Conference in Ramotswa, said he is convinced that the BMD would come out of this mess a united party. BMD is currently embroiled in factionalism. This saw some BMD youth converge in Ramotswa this past weekend to host an elective congress even though the party leadership announced that the congress has been postponed.
BMD National Working Committee met last week Tuesday to deliberate on the BMDYL congress and concluded that the congress must be postponed. Party National Executive Committee leads the BMD factions. Party President Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi leads one faction while Chairman Nehemiah Modubule and Secretary General Gilbert Mangole lead the other faction.
Gaolathe-Mmolotsi faction pushed for the congress while Modubule-Mangole faction was against the congress. Modubule-Mangole faction is supporting Kagelelo Kentse for the youth presidency while Gaolathe-Mmolotsi support Jacob Kelebeng. Gaolathe officially opened the weekend congress, which was said to be unlawful.
Only one faction voted at the congress as Kentse’s team did not attend the congress. When opening the BCPYL conference, which was meters away from the BMDYL congress, Boko said all the UDC affiliates have experienced what the BMD is going through. UDC is made up of BMD, BCP, Botswana National Front [BNF] and Botswana People Party [BPP].
Boko told delegates that when he became president of the BNF, the party was divided. He revealed that those who were not strong at the time fell off and the movement remained and emerged stronger. He said the BCP and the BPP have also experienced the same. “Give them time. Let them fight their own fight internally.
There is no disarray. It is an opportunity for degeneration and growth. It would have been disappointing if the BMD could have not gone through this stage. Those who are not strong will leave the BMD and join the BDP. I am calling on all UDC members not to debate the BMD issues but to give them space,” stated Boko. With only two months left the BMD has not yet decided where it will hold its elective congress in July where a new leadership will be elected.
It was something that needed to be done; at least before the formal opposition talks began. A genuine camaraderie between the leaders was needed to pave way for the formal opposition unity talks. After weeks of planning, postponements, off-course deviations and frustrations, the time was perfect for the retreat. The silly political season was in recess; everyone was preoccupied with the festive season; the social-media political pundits were on a break.
For the leaders of the country’s major opposition political parties, the holiday period offered an opportunity to ‘sneak out’ of the country to begin what is often known as ‘talks before talks’ in the political circles. Botswana Movement for Democratic Change’s leader Ndaba Gaolathe was in South Africa and so was the Botswana Congress Party’s leader Dumelang Saleshando. For the Botswana National Front and Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, Duma Boko, it was just a matter of few hours’ drive to this secret place. Motlatsi Molapise of the Botswana Peoples Party had delegated senior party official Richard Gudu. The leaders did not bring their spouses along.
The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort in Polokwane was a perfect getaway for the four leaders. And over the next three days, from December 28 to 31, it offered everything that Gaborone could not offer. It offered secrecy. Situated 25km south of Polokwane, the four-star hotel comprises 1000 hectares of pristine Limpopo province bush-veldt, according to the hotel’s website. The meeting was off the radar from curious journalists, anxious party members and snooping intelligence agents. The financier of the retreat was a Gaborone businessman sympathetic to the UDC project.
The ‘escape’ to Polokwane was well managed. The retreat did not leak, at least for a couple of months after the event. Not even senior party members of the parties involved were aware of the retreat. The men tasked with coordinating the retreat, the UDC’s spin doctor-in-chief Moeti Mohwasa and BCP’s presidential spokesperson Martin Dingake did not give away the game either. The secret meeting was well kept. The two men also attended the Polokwane retreat and worked together on the retreat’s programme though it was never followed to the letter, instead being interwoven with a more informal approach.
For the first time the leaders of the four parties learned to “hang out” with each other more informally, shared jokes and played sport. The attire was casual, and so was the language. It was however the game of table tennis that broke the ice between the four leaders and paved way for more formal talks the following day.At a press conference to announce the opposition deal, Saleshando and Boko referred to the Polokwane retreat as a defining moment for the opposition talks, albeit succinctly. Saleshando joked about how he emerged triumphant during a table tennis match between the four leaders. For his part, Boko conceded that as a former amateur footballer he had not played table tennis before and was handicapped during matches.
Only Saleshando and Gaolathe were familiar with the sport and took turns to coach other leaders. The table tennis matches dragged on for hours, at one point lasting the entire afternoon. The epic match was between Gaolathe and Saleshando. It was epic in the sense that the two men had played the sport before. Their match was highly contested. In the end Saleshando won. T
he leaders and their trusted aides, also watched English Premier League matches together in the hotel lounge. The leaders supported different EPL teams. For example, Duma Boko supports Manchester United, Ndaba is a Liverpool fan, while Saleshando is a Chelsea fan. Besides sporting activities, the leaders visited places such as the Mall of the North, Tzaneen and drove around the city of Polokwane.
After a day of sport, jokes and laughter, the leaders finally sat down on the 30th of December to agree on the principle of cooperation. The meetings were highly informal in nature and structure.
The underlying principle that the leadership adopted was to come together and work for the common good of Batswana. This principle defined the way forward. Boko directed and led the discussions. It was at the table and during the discussions that differences and even new alliances emerged. It was here that Boko and Saleshando found each other. The two agreed on several issues.
Gaolathe and Gudu were in some cases on the same corner, though not too distant from the overall conversation. For example, Gaolathe and Gudu initially wanted BCP to apply for the UDC membership, while Saleshando and Boko felt that the four parties should engage in direct unity negotiations. The other issue concerned the inclusion of the mediators. Boko and Saleshando were for self-mediation while Gaolathe and Gudu felt that outside mediators should be engaged. The participation of the retreat organisers, Mohwasa and Dingake was limited.
At the end, a ‘deal’ was reached, a foundation for the talks was laid. While the four leaders may not want to readily admit it, it was at the Polokwane retreat that the cooperation principle was agreed upon. Everything was sealed at the Polokwane retreat. The name UDC+ was initially proposed at the Polokwane retreat. The model of constituency allocation was also agreed. When the negotiation teams sat down to start formal negotiations they were ratifying what was agreed by the four leaders in Polokwane.
After three-day outing, Saleshando and Gaolathe left together in Saleshando’s car, while Boko left with his right-hand man Elliot Moshoke (who played no part in the talks). Richard Gudu and Mohwasa used the same car, while Dingake used his own car. This week Mohwasa confirmed the Polokwane meeting but stressed that the meeting was for the four leaders to lay the foundation for the talks noting that “Myself and Martin (Dingake) were merely there to facilitate and we didn’t take part in the discussions.”
President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko is missing in action at Parliament. Boko’s absence was glaringly conspicuous this week as Parliament debated the draft National Development Plan (NDP) 11 – by all means, an important document of national interest.
As per Parliament Standing Orders, Boko was scheduled to be the first to respond to the NDP11 draft on Tuesday this week but did not. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Molatlhegi told Parliament that Boko, who is also President of Botswana National Front (BNF), was not in and would not be able to respond. He however indicated that Boko has complied with Standing Order 9.5, which directs him to inform the speaker of his absence and to designate one of his members to act on his behalf.
Thus, he had picked Ndaba Gaolathe to act as Leader of Opposition. Opposition MPs have expressed concern over Boko’s continued absence in Parliament. The MPs argue that this has over time weakened them as the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has had a field day against them in previous Parliament sittings.
An MP from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) - a contracting member of UDC said, “There are issues that have to be led by the leader of opposition as a senior member of the opposition rank. Now you will find that the BDP, led by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, always takes advantage of Boko’s absence. If he is absent on official duty it is understandable and not when it is for his private business”. Another MP who also preferred anonymity said they have tried to speak to Boko on several occasions but in vain. He also alleged that at times Boko would miss an opposition Parliamentary Caucus meeting, which is a forum where the opposition prepares itself to rally as a united block against the BDP MPs, especially cabinet.
The MP revealed that this is one of the reasons why BMD’s rank and file have been querying the decision to have BNF occupy the LOO seat instead of BMD which has more MPs in Parliament. The MP also stated that even though Boko left for Mauritius the following day (Wednesday) that cannot be used as an excuse not to attend Parliament. “Traditionally the expectation is that the leaders of opposition should be impactful in Parliament business. Their contributions must be frequent. If you look at Boko, his contribution is more or less on the same level as that of Moupo. He is not so much heard even when compared to his deputy Ndaba Gaolathe. We continue to attack President Ian Khama for not attending Parliament but our own leader is doing the same which could simply mean that even when we take power we would not be different from the current regime,” said another disillusioned opposition MP.
Boko could not be reached for comment as he is out of the country on Parliament business. BNF Information and Publicity Secretary Justin Hunyepa was also not available as his mobile phone rang unanswered. Observers argue that if opposition MPs are worried this could have a negative bearing on the cooperation talks between UDC and BCP. It is argued that this could lead to other parties requesting to have their leaders take the seat so as to increase the impact of the opposition. Political Analyst Anthony Morima said this could mean there is lack of leadership direction. He however pointed out that Boko has to be applauded for timeously and adequately responding to both SONA and budget speech.
“These debates are made public to the effect that their impact is made known that the leader of opposition was in-charge. The nation has to know the impact the leader of opposition has especially when dealing with critical issues like NDP11,” he stated. From Otsweletse Moupo to former BNF Vice President Olebile Gaborone to the current leader Boko, the party has been criticised for failing the seat, which is deemed crucial in the running of Parliament especially for the opposition MPs whose performance is expected to be anchored on the leader of opposition.
The position is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest opposition party in the house; it is usually regarded as the voice of the united opposition. According to Parliament’s Standing Orders, the Leader of Opposition’s enjoys the same status as the Leader of House in relation to the business of the house. He or she is offered the opportunity to be the first to respond to the State of the Nation Address, Budget Speech or any other major government policy statement and is allowed to read his or her speech if he or she so desires. He or she serves as the second vice president of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Botswana Branch) and an executive member of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum - SADC(PF).