Fireworks are expected at the Botswana National Front (BNF) conference that will be held during the President’s Day weekend in July. At the heart of the matter is whether or not the parties that comprise the coalition Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) should disband and form a single party.
The parties that make up the UDC are the BNF, the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana Movement for Democratic Change (BMD). Those against dissolution of the parties have accused BNF president Duma Boko of having designs to disband the party and turning the UDC into a single entity with a unitary identity. Some of them are so strongly against this that they have threatened to leave the UDC should the BNF be dissolved.
A prominent BNF member who once served on the party’s central committee has described such a move as suicidal. “We have worked hard for the party. Such a brand cannot be destroyed by an individual,” he told Northen Extra in an interview this week. “As a group, we are not against cooperation. What we are against is the killing of our brand,” he added.
Another highly placed source says the problem is that BNF members are kept in the dark. “During the formation of the Umbrella, comrades were not informed about the project. We heard a lot of issues with the BMD. This clearly demonstrates that BNF members are taken for granted,’’ the source says. He wants the BNF leadership to take the Sefhare leadership forum seriously. When it is brought to his attention that the Sefhare leadership forum is not binding, he returns that it informs the party about the mood of members.
Nevetheless, a view that is gaining currency is one that holds that Botswana should have two major political parties and that the UDC should become a single entity in order to present a credible alternative to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Proponents of this view believe that as a sinle entity, the UDC will still be led by the BNF because of the latter’s numeric strength in the coaltion. “We aim to form a government in 2019. If people still want to stick to old names, they will hold us back. We should take over in order to free the people from the yoke of oppression,” says a proponent of this view who wants to remain anonymous.
Prominent BNF theorist Elmon Tafa recently penned a newspaper article in which he critisised the current BNF leadership for its intention to form a single party, saying the formation of UDC was on the mould of a united front as proposed by the founder of the BNF, the late Dr Kenneth Koma. Boko, who is president of both the BNF and the UDC, was soon attacking certain “educated individuals” at a political rally in Francistown, accusing them of writing articles about the Umbrella when they did not understand the project.
This was widely received as a thinly-veiled reference to Tafa. Efforts to reach the Publicity Secretary of the BNF, Moeti Mohwasa, proved futile at the time of going to press. Reached for comment, Mohwasa’s counterpart at the BNF Youth League, Malatsi Mokhubame, criticised BNF members for always rushing to the media instead of channeling their grievances within party structure. He pointed to media reports quoting a BMD leader as saying the tripartite alliance that is the UDC had no intention of disbanding the individual parties..