Wednesday, 03 June 2015 10:37

Mathokgwane’s shocker!

The unexpected resignation of Member of Parliament for Goodhope –Mabule constituency, James Mathokgwane who resigned with immediate effect on Wednesday as the MP has left more questions than answers. The resignation comes just seven months after being elected into office.

Contacted for comment on Wednesday, Mathokgwane said, “I have resigned as MP to pursue my other interests in life. These things come at any time, mme legale go tla siama, gago nke go senyegela ruri” (all will be well.’) He said he remained a “loyal member of the Botswana National Front, the UDC,” adding that they had arranged for a press conference on the subject on  Thursday at 3pm. Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe said Mathokgwane’s resignation letter was in one line and that he did not state reasons for his resignation. “Some would indicate that they are going for greener pastures but his did not state. I have since accepted it and responded in a letter which he is yet to receive.

I do appreciate his time that he has been with us and the contribution he has made so far in Parliament,” Kokorwe said. During his tenure as MP, Mathokgwane served as a member in the following parliamentary portfolio committees and inter parliamentary body; Labour and Home Affairs; Health and HIV/AIDS; Governance and Oversight; and Southern African Development Community-Parliamentary Forum. Kokorwe said that Mathokgwane did not attend the ongoing SADC-PF standing committee meetings at Phakalane which he sits in. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa said Mathokgwane’s reasons for resigning are personal. “As the UDC, we respect his decision and the reasons advanced. Cde Mathokgwane’s reasons for resigning are personal and therefore private. We believe that Cde Mathokgwane’s right to privacy should be respected,” said the party spin-doctor.

Mohwasa said that Mathokgwane has served the UDC, particularly the Botswana National Front (BNF) in different capacities. “It is this confidence that people had in him as a result of his service to the party and the nation that he won the GoodHope/ Mabule seat under the UDC. The party wishes Cde Mathokgwane well in his future endeavors and has no doubt that he will continue with the struggle for the emancipation of our people in other capacities,” he said. UDC President Duma Boko said Mathokgwane’s resignation has nothing to do with the party. “He cited personal reasons and decided to resign. We have lost a great representative. He was at least one of the able and articulate MPs in the present Parliament. We appreciate his capability as a leader. We know he faced challenges in his personal space which had compelled him to take the decision he has taken which we respect and should not detract from the passion and commitment that he has shown for his constituency and his people, and trust that the people of the constituency will appreciate the contribution that he has made within a short period,” Boko said in his tribute.

Asked if they will contest the by-election in the constituency, which will be occasioned by the resignation, Botswana Congress Party president Dumelang Saleshando said: “Our standing resolution is that as and when vacancies arise and by-elections are called, we will decide whether or not to contest depending on the realities of each constituency or ward. So we will be consulting our structures and we will decide on the way forward. But, I must stress that where we decide not to contest, we support the UDC if they contest.” Political analyst Prof. Zibani Maundeni said it is very sad that a young MP who won election a few months ago could resign so early, even before his contribution could be felt in Parliament. “This leaves the UDC very vulnerable, and could easily be accused of absconding. What guarantee is there that another of their party member would not also resign if elected?” asked the University of Botswana lecturer.

Mathokgwane’s resignation gives the former MP for the area Kitso Mokaila an opportunity to win back the constituency for the BDP, which currently has 37 elected MPs. UDC has been reduced to 16 MPs while minority opposition BCP remains with its three MPs. It was not clear at the time of writing when the Independent Electoral Commission would call the by-election. Mathokgwane made it to Parliament in the 2104 general election after defeating the current Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila with 6712 votes to 6101. BCP’s Lesego Gatogang was crawling behind with 717 votes. Mathokgwane’s resignation means that parties will have to go for a by-election in the constituency.

Published in News
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 12:14

BDP: reforms or demise – part 1

The 2014 combined legislative and local government elections have come and gone. In terms of the legislative outcome, it was a mixed bag. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), an opposition collective, increased its parliamentary seats two and a half-fold (from seven to 17), garnering close to a third of the popular vote (30%) in the process - a remarkable achievement for a political formation established on the eve of the elections. On the other hand, it was not a good election for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

The BCP lost 60% of its parliamentary seats (five out of eight), including that of its president. However, to its credit, the party managed to hold on to its popular vote albeit having marginally decreased by 1% to 20.4%. Incidentally, under a proportional representation system the party’s share of the vote would translate into 11 parliamentary seats and the UDC would still have the same number of parliamentary seats it obtained at the elections.

As a party in power, the election results were nothing less than seismic for the BDP. In terms of parliamentary seats, it garnered 65% of the contested seats, the lowest share of seats the party has ever attained. It shed 14% of its share of seats it acquired in 2009 (79%) to the opposition. It will therefore not be such a difficult task for the opposition to slice off a further 16% from the current 65% share of seats at the next elections and attain state power. Furthermore, given the volatility of the BDP’s share of seats over the years (it plunged 23% at the 1994 general elections), a 65% share is very precarious.

Most disturbing for the ruling party, however, is its share of the popular vote, which, for the first time in its existence, dipped below 50% to 46.5%. This does not however invalidate the party’s victory nor does it make the BDP government any less legitimate. Nonetheless, the level of the party’s popular vote does not bode well for its future for two reasons. Firstly, the opposition will capitalise on this to create doubt in the minds of a largely gullible electorate about the legitimacy of the BDP government on the basis that it received a mandate from a minority. And any misstep by the government will be seized upon as proof that it is illegitimate; that it cannot be entrusted with the nation’s welfare, and should therefore be voted out in 2019. Secondly, sooner rather than later a tipping point will be reached whereby the first-past-the-post electoral model will cease to favour the BDP.

At this point, the decreasing popular vote will no longer be able to deliver the required number of parliamentary seats for the BDP to remain in power, at least on its own.  In the past, after experiencing losses, the BDP would bounce back and increase both its share of parliamentary seats and popular vote, but this was during an era when its political opponents did it favours by splitting opposition votes. Unfortunately for the party, that era has now come to end. The fact that the UDC collective has mutated into a seemingly unstoppable political force, coupled with the expectation that, despite public pronouncements to the contrary by its activists, the BCP will join the UDC in preparation for the 2019 general elections, presents a somewhat hopeless scenario for the BDP going forward. The odds will certainly be heavily stacked against the ruling party and chances of it retaining state power at the next general elections appear extremely slim. Credit should be given to the man behind the success of the UDC, the biggest threat to the ruling party since the pre-1998 BNF.

The Harvard-educated Duma Boko, president of both the BNF and the UDC, is a highly intelligent man albeit with a considerable dose of cockiness that perhaps emanates from his sense of self-confidence. With political guile and savviness, despite being a political rookie, he created self-belief within the ranks of an erstwhile moribund BNF and fashioned a political behemoth out of the UDC. The UDC’s electoral achievements make Boko the most successful political leader in the country’s history especially in light of the huge challenges he had to overcome. He took over an unstable BNF beset with infighting, indiscipline and rock-bottom morale. His detractors within the party mounted numerous court challenges to nullify not only his presidency, but his very membership of the party he led, and to stop it from joining the UDC.

Within a limited space of time Boko also had to oversee a complex and particularly sensitive process of forging a new political party out of three separate political entities; a process that included the distribution of wards and constituencies between the parties that make up the collective, as well as the harmonisation of different ideologies to craft a single electoral platform. Against this background, his achievements are remarkable to say the least. In particular, he had the foresight to stick with the umbrella project even after the BCP, a major political bloc, had pulled out (they vehemently deny this). And by the look of things, Boko and company do not have the slightest intention of being in the opposition for too long - they have already started campaigning for 2019; they cannot wait. This is the kind of an adversary that awaits the BDP at the next general elections.

Given the momentum that the UDC has created, in its current shape and form, the BDP will be easy meat in 2019. However, not all is gloom and doom for the ruling party; if it plays its cards right it can turn its fortunes around to win the 2019 general elections, and the next one. The fact that in 2014 the BDP managed to snatch a number of seats from the opposition means that it is still a force to be reckoned with and is thus far from having run its course. Above all, it still has a lot of political goodwill it can exploit to reclaim its past glory. However, this can only happen if the party institutes reforms to address its plethora of shortcomings, notably those that the UDC successfully capitalised on in its campaign for the 2014 general elections. Opportunities in the past for the institution of reforms in the party have gone begging. And when the BCP opted out of the opposition collective ahead of the 2014 general elections, the BDP was fortuitously handed a final opportunity to candidly introspect and introduce the required reforms. This is where the party finds itself today. There is no way around the reforms; the BDP has to face up to hard truths for its very survival. It is that simple.

The next instalment will discuss the shortcomings of the BDP.

Bugalo A. Chilume
BDP member
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in News
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 14:24

Disbanding parties could wreck UDC

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..

Published in Northren Extra
Friday, 13 July 2012 11:00

BNF won’t go back on umbrella

Botswana National Front (BNF) national conference billed for Maun from July 14 to 17 is expected to thrash out contentious issues around the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and discuss allocation of constituencies and wards under the arrangement. {jvrelatives}In an interview on Tuesday, BNF Secretary for Information and Publicity, Moeti Mohwasa, said next month’s national conference would be like any other gathering aimed at reinvigorating the party. Mohwasa said the conference is in accordance with section 14.2 of the BNF constitution.

Published in News
Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:46

Umbrella conveners now part of UDC leadership

Following the conclusion of the Umbrella talks which recently gave birth to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the party launch on November 11th, the conveners of the negotiation process are now part of the leadership of UDC.

With only Lebang Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane as the conveners of the negotiation process at the beginning of the talks, the number later rose to five after the inclusion of retired High Court Judge John Mosojane, Rev. Prince Dibeela and Rev. Cosmos Moenga. The team facilitated the so-called Umbrella 1 talks which included the Botswana People’s Party (BPP), the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

After the collapse of Umbrella 1 the conveners called and chaired meetings of Umbrella 2 which the BCP declined to be part of due to differences with its negotiating partners, especially the BMD particularly over the allocation of constituencies.

According to the transitional clause, Article 28 of the UDC constitution, before the holding of the 1st meeting of the National Congress (NC), three out of five of the conveners together with the Presidents, and Secretaries General of the BPP, the BNF and BMD shall, together will give one more negotiating officer per party, have, on behalf of the Umbrella, the power to exercise any power vested in any structure of the party”.

Besides the power to amend the constitution this body is vested with the power to suspend the operations of any party structure, appoint or remove persons from any offices that are established by the constitution.

According to Article 11.5 of the UDC Constitution, before the NC meets for the election of the National Office Bearers (N0B), the conveners of the negotiation process shall be part of the structure that will do the day to day running of the UDC alongside the party President, Vice President, Deputy Vice President, Treasurer, General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary.

Another body to which they belong is the Governing Body (GB) which consists of the NOB’s and delegates from group members.

 They are also part of the National Executive Committee (NEC) whose composition includes NOB’s, Chairperson and Regional Secretary of each region and Leader or President of group members.

The NEC which is the largest of the UDC structures after the NC and which the Governors also belong to shall have the power to give broad direction concerning organizational ,political and educational issues within the Umbrella.

This  structure, whose mandate is to manage the affairs of the Umbrella between meetings of the NC and GB shall have powers to admit or refuse to admit application for membership to the Umbrella.

This structure also has the power to fill vacancies in the positions of NOB, adopt or amend a leadership  code of conduct as well as approve the Umbrella budget.

Published in Northren Extra
Page 3 of 3

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