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UDC needs a rebirth!

Publishing Date : 05 November, 2019

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH


There is no doubt that this year’s electoral results in terms of which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) lost four seats in Parliament, with its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, losing his seat, calls for its rebirth.



This, because Botswana, like all democracies, need a strong opposition if the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is to be put on check, lest it becomes complacent to the detriment of our democracy. When the UDC was born just before the 2014 general elections, it raised hope among hundreds of thousands of Batswana who voted for it in large numbers, giving it 17 seats in Parliament. In fact, as some opine, were it not for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which selfishly decided to contest outside the UDC, the UDC would have won the elections or at least caused a hung Parliament.


So real was the possibility of the UDC attaining state power that the BDP developed strategies which included endearing itself to trade unions and the media, especially after His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, came to office. It was because of the UDC’s potency that the BDP itself went through a rebirth, something which paid dividends because were it not for the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), the BDP would have won forty-one of the fifty-seven Parliamentary seats on offer.


On the contrary, the UDC dug its own grave, something which was bound to result in the dismal performance it suffered at the hands of the BDP this year. The UDC failed to timeously intervene in the conflicts bedeviling its member, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), claiming that it had no right to intervene since the BMD is a separate legal entity. For about three years, the UDC did nothing when the BMD was self-destructing, the result being the infamous Bobonong congresses, whose bloody confrontations resulted in a split which resulted in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP).


Even after this, the BMD continued to be marred by conflict, but the UDC stood idle only to act decisively in 2018 by expelling the BMD. But, it was too late for then began a protracted mudslinging battle from which the UDC never recovered. The court case which ensued from BMD’s expulsion did not help the situation for it created in many Batswana’s minds the impression that the UDC is an unstable political party which can not be trusted with state power.


This is perhaps the reason why the Botswana Federation of Public Service Organizations (BOFEPUSU) did not endorse it this year, something which was read by some as a vote of no confidence. Meanwhile, the BDP under H.E Dr. Masisi was on the rise with its new found ‘CAVA’ brand and charm offensive on trade unions, public servants, the media, et cetera unparalleled.


H.E Dr. Masisi’s public relations machinery, both at Tsholetsa house and at Government enclave, presented him as though he was the progenitor of consultation or therisano. This worked in the minds of many Batswana who were yearning for that after ten years of what many regard as autocratic rule by former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.


On the eve of the elections, a debate for political party presidential candidates, which was expected by many to boost the UDC’s prospects of winning the elections, turned into a nightmare for the UDC when there was an outcry at the verbal and non-verbal communication used by Advocate Boko, which many regarded as uncouth. When, on 24th October, the electoral results were announced, not only did the UDC emerge as the greatest loser, its leader, Advocate Boko, lost his seat. So too did the leader of the AP, Ndaba Gaolathe.


Of course, the UDC cried foul, claiming there was wide spread electoral fraud and rigging by the BDP. If this is true, it is yet to be proven before the courts of law. Almost immediately after the results, some voices of dissent began emerging from the UDC and the Botswana National Front (BNF). One such was Advocate Boko’s deputy at the BNF, Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, who blamed Advocate Boko for UDC’s loss.


This is understandable considering the extent to which the BNF lost Parliamentary seats compared to its coalition partner, the BCP. While the BNF won a mere five seats, the BCP won a whopping eleven seats. This is impressive for a party which won only three seats in 2014.  Also, to add salt to injury for the BNF, its leader, Advocate Boko, who has been the Leader of the Opposition (LoO) in Parliament, lost his Parliamentary seat. On the other hand, the BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, won his seat and is likely to be the LoO in Parliament when this Parliament resumes business.  


Among the allegations Rev. Dr. Dibeela levelled against Advocate Boko are that he neglected his own party, the BNF, resulting in the collapse of its structures, hence its dismal performance compared to the BCP. Rev. Dr. Dibeela also blamed Advocate Boko for being an authoritarian who makes decisions to the exclusion of the party and coalition’s leadership and/or overrules the majority’s decisions as he pleases. He gave Advocate Boko’s refusal to expel Advocate Sidney Pilane from the BMD, something which resulted in the BMD debacle getting out of hand.   


You would recall that long before the elections, the BNF Veterans’ League expressed misgivings about Advocate Boko’s leadership, citing almost the same reasons as the ones proffered by Rev. Dr. Dibeela. There was a time when there were rumors that the UDC leadership, including Advocate Boko’s deputy at the UDC, who is also BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, were not privy to the coalition’s funding sources. While one may not ascertain the allegations against Advocate Boko, it is clear that the UDC needs a rebirth.


If it is true that Advocate Boko has acted as he is alleged to have acted, there is something wrong with the UDC and the BNF. It is not understandable how one person can run the show and lead the whole movement to such an abyss? Is it not because the rank and file abdicated their constitutional responsibilities? For instance, one wonders where such vanguards of the movement as the Youth League and the Women’s League were when the movement lost direction, allegedly because of one man.


As a coalition of leftist political parties who believe in democratic centralism, one would have expected the UDC and BNF to prevail on Advocate Boko and bring him to line in as far as the bottom-up approach to leadership is concerned. Perhaps one lesson the UDC and the BNF need to learn is that personality cultism in terms of which the leader is treated like a deity and becomes bigger than the collective is to be shunned at all costs because it invariably produces autocrats.


Fundamental to such leftist movements as the UDC and the BNF is the concept of self-criticism and self-correction. Clearly, this virtue has been relegated to obscurity. Without suggesting that the African National Congress (ANC) has done better in that regard, one may nevertheless urge the UDC and the BNF to borrow a leaf from the ANC’s ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ pamphlet for if it did it would have self-corrected in time to avoid the abyss it fell into.


Self-correction would have enabled the UDC and the BNF to deal with the BMD saga and the Advocate Boko issue in time to avoid costing the whole movement as it just did. In order to facilitate its rebirth, the UDC needs to convene a National Congress as soon as possible whereat self-criticism would prevail, the preferred result being a change in not only the movement’s strategy and tactics, but also in the movement’s leadership.


Perhaps one reason why the UDC performed so badly this year is that since it was formed it has never conducted a democratic election of its leadership. The leadership positions were attained and/or assigned by compromise. In my view, Advocate Boko has to take a dignified bow from the leadership of both the UDC and the BNF. By so doing, he would give way to someone who may give a breath of fresh air to the movements, thereby strategically placing them for the 2024 elections.


No doubt, from an intellectual point of view Advocate Boko has what it takes to take any movement to the greatest of heights, but he has lost too much political credibility and capital that he can only remain at the movements’ helm at the masses’ expense. The leadership of the Youth League and Women’s League too have to take a bow for they failed to play their vanguard role when the leadership led the movement astray. The UDC and the BNF also have to revert to the situation where the party is mainly funded by the members, not by anonymous individuals and/or organizations who often high jack the leadership in order to further their own interest.

 

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