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Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Home » News » Politics » Expert proposes way forward for BMD

Expert proposes way forward for BMD

Publishing Date : 22 August, 2017

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

A Professor of Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada Amy Poteete says opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) should go for congress re-run as first option. Poteete has spent her better time in Botswana observing the political landscape and dynamics.


BMD is currently embroiled in bitter internal rivalry that gave birth to a parallel leadership emanating from the disputed separate congresses from Bobonong recently. BMD has two National Executive Committees (NEC), one led by Gaolathe Ndaba while Sidney Pilane leads the other. Professor Poteete pointed out in an interview with WeekendPost this week that “since the two BMD factions held separate congresses in Bobonong, the group led by Ndaba Gaolathe has publicly recognized and debated three options for dealing with the impasse with Sidney Pilane’s group. These, however, are not the only possibilities,” she highlighted.


According to the Canadian Professor, whose research focuses on state interventions in natural resource sectors and electoral politics in Africa, particularly in Botswana and Senegal, there are many options to consider and she presented six options available to Ndaba’s group and considers their likelihood and political implications. Firstly, according to her fresh elections offer the most democratic way to resolve conflicts adding that his option would only settle the conflict if both factions could agree on the designation of delegates, which is far from certain even if an outside body supervised the process.

However, she said the more immediate obstacle, is that Pilane's group cannot be forced to participate in fresh elections and shows no interest in doing so.
“What will the other members of UDC do if (when) Pilane's group officially refuses to go along? It is possible - but far from certain - that, after Pilane’s group officially rejects the proposal for fresh elections, the other members of UDC will decide to recognize Ndaba's group because they proposed a democratic resolution to the conflict,” she observed.
She also hinted that even that decision, however, would not give Ndaba's group legal claim to the BMD name, symbol, etc. And it certainly would not reunite the BMD. “So, at best (from the perspective of Ndaba’s group), putting forward this proposal offers a partial solution, and that more likely, it only delays a move to one of the other options.”
The second option, Professor Poteete said it is for BMD to go to court. This, she mentioned is the only way to have a chance of keeping the BMD name and symbol in the absence of fresh elections.
“BMD members have a very intense identification with their party and, understandably, many want to fight to keep the name, colours, and symbol,” she justified while adding that going to court is costly and the outcome uncertain.
However, she highlighted that “winning rights to the BMD name and symbol will not reunite the party. The political logic of opposition cooperation means that the UDC will still need to figure out how to deal with both groups, regardless of which one holds legal rights to the BMD name and symbol. “So, this is no more than a partial solution.”
The next option, which might be a bitter pill to swallow for the Ndaba led committee is to eventually form a new party. Poteete explained that this option “keeps” Ndaba's group together as a corporate entity and, given the low prospects of fresh elections and the costs and uncertainty of the legal route, is emerging as the most likely option.
“The formation of a new party would provide a new legally constituted organizational home for Ndaba’s group, but would not solve other political problems and presents new challenges. The start-up costs are high. Further, this strategy reinforces rather than resolves the divisions between the Ndaba and Pilane groups and fragments the party system when the supposed goal is opposition unity.”
According to the renowned Professor, the new party would need to negotiate entry into the UDC, the ease of which will depend on how UDC deals with Pilane's group. If Ndaba's group forms a new party and cannot negotiate mutually agreeable terms for re-entering UDC, it could go its own way (or, perhaps, team up with BPP), she said.
But, she added that its survival in the 2019 elections may depend on being in UDC, and, its areas of strength, based on the location of incumbents, are in the north and in Gaborone and vicinity. The northern constituencies, she continued, overlap with the BCP’s areas of strength and the constituencies in Gaborone and vicinity are extremely competitive.
Ndaba's group needs to cooperate with BCP and BNF to avoid mutual destruction through vote splitting, according to Poteete, who received the Dudley Seers Memorial Prize for best article in volume 45 of the Journal of Development Studies for her article, “Is Development Path Dependent or Political? A Reinterpretation of Mineral-Dependent Development in Botswana” in April 2009.
She also said the Ndaba led group can also consider as some of its options, to form a compromise BMD NEC with representation from each of the two factions.
Although, it is not one of the options promoted by Ndaba's group, the professor said she has seen it being floated here and there, and that a resolution of differences backed by mutual trust and a commitment to a common project would offer the most sustainable solution for the long term.
“There may thus be a temptation to push this option, particularly on the part of the UDC and others who are outside the BMD but supportive of opposition cooperation. The conditions seem unfavorable for that sort of conflict resolution in the short term, however, given the depth of the divisions, the demonstrated unwillingness to negotiate, and the electoral time table. There is an obvious deficit of mutual trust. My sense is that the lack of trust gives raise to some uncertainty about whether the two groups in fact share a common project.”
But she cautioned: “Thus, I view this strategy as unlikely, unstable if pursued in the absence of a real resolution of differences and thus unpromising prior to the 2019 elections.”
In addition, she said that people have not been discussing would be for Ndaba's group to join one of the existing parties within UDC.
“Joining an existing party would avoid the start-up costs of forming a new party and fragmentation of the party system. But this strategy presents obvious challenges. As noted above, BMD members have an intense identification with their party and activists may resist joining an existing party.”
According to the Canadian Professor, the merger of Ndaba’s group into the UDC member parties would not avoid the need to re-open negotiations over the terms of participation in the UDC and the UDC would still need to figure out how to deal with both Ndaba’s group and Pilane’s group. Nonetheless, she said this option should at least be recognized and contemplated rather than dismissed out of hand.
Another option would be for Ndaba’s group to join the UDC as individual members. “I realize that few activists would find this option very attractive as it means giving up their subgroup identity. It is not just a matter of affective attachment.”
 Although the UDC constitution allows for individual membership, Professor Poteete said affiliation with one of the member parties has been the basis for negotiating constituency allocation within the UDC.
She added that indeed, one of the challenges associated with allocating constituencies to parties through negotiations rather than a primary involving all members is that it reinforces both party divisions within the UDC and the regional nature of the member parties.
But he said that is a challenge for another day, a day after the UDC and the two parts of the BMD figure out whether and how to work together.

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