Bromance: a close but non-sexual relationship between two men. That best describes the relationship between Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leaders a few months ago.
They travelled together; attended events together, spoke highly of each other and even brought their wives together for dinners. That is no more. According to impeccable sources within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Dumelang Saleshando and Duma Boko are no longer as ‘buddy-buddy’ as they used to be a few months ago when they criss-crossed the country addressing political rallies in a show of opposition unity.
Initially, Boko and Saleshando did not include Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Sidney Pilane in their rallies, something that is said to have irked the BMD leader to a point where he decided to stand up and reclaim his position as the ‘senior’ vice president in the umbrella party. ‘‘He felt undermined by the UDC’s exclusion of him in the nationwide tours and decided to stamp his authority,’’ a source said.
It is said that to show his seniority over Saleshando, Pilane blocked the BCP president from convening UDC central committee meetings, insisting that he alone was the one allowed by the UDC constitution to call for such meetings as he is the Vice President in charge of the party’s administrative issues. This assertion was confirmed by BMD National Spokesperson Winfred Rasina in an interview on Sunday. ‘‘We, at BMD, hold the view that such meetings are convened by Pilane as the VP (Administration) in conjunction with the UDC President Boko,’’ he said. Pilane is said to have cancelled a meeting that was called by Saleshando seeking the UDC central committee to do a post-mortem of the congress held at Ditshupo Hall in Gaborone recently. Pilane is also alleged to have raised a complaint that Saleshando should not be allowed to speak after him at rallies because party hierarchy dictates that the line-up is made in such a way that a senior member in the leadership speaks last. ‘‘He says Saleshando must speak first, followed by him and then Boko,’’ a UDC insider revealed.
In all this, Saleshando is said to be feeling betrayed by Boko who, apparently, has decided to stand by Pilane and alienate Saleshando. ‘‘How do you explain the trip to South Africa where Boko and Pilane attended the Democratic Alliance (DA) congress and never included Saleshando in their entourage, instead choosing to tag along low-ranking officials from their parties?’’ a member of the UDC central committee mused when asked to comment on the alleged fallout between Saleshando and his two counterparts.
Quizzed on Saleshando’s exclusion from the DA congress trip, Rasina said as far as they were concerned, DA was the one that sent out invitations and as such he was not in a position to explain why the BCP leader was not part of the delegation. He confirmed that he, together with Gilbert Mangole and Pilane attended on behalf of the BMD.
A source close to Saleshando also revealed that the relationship between the three UDC leaders is so acrimonious to a point where Saleshando has decided to just keep quiet and watch from a distance. He said they have been made aware that Boko feels insecure about Saleshando’s rise in the UDC more so that Boko seems to be losing support within the BNF central committee. ‘‘Saleshando is a hard worker and all those countrywide tours were his brainchild and so Boko feels UDC can easily replace him with Saleshando,’’ the source said when asked why Boko would feel insecure around Saleshando.
Saleshando is said to be feeling isolated and betrayed by Boko and Pilane who seem not bothered by prospects of him failing to stand for the 2019 general elections because he still does not have a constituency, less than two years before the general elections. Saleshando had apparently banked on the goodwill of his counterparts to avail a constituency for him. It is said that Saleshando was hopeful of getting a constituency especially from the BMD who seem to have no substantive representatives in some constituencies following the departure of some MPs who left the BMD to form Alliance for Progressives.
‘‘Instead of giving Saleshando one of the constituencies, the BMD is busy recruiting from BDP and other UDC contracting parties to occupy the available parliamentary positions,’’ a BCP Central Committee member said, adding that some in the BCP leadership now regret the day their party joined the UDC. ‘‘It’s a pity a lot of our members are not aware of what is happening and they might think we are abusing their support should we choose to leave the UDC so closer to the general elections,’’ the source explained their predicament.
Rasina told this publication over the weekend that as much as they would appreciate Saleshando having a constituency, they do not have the mandate of their members to give away any of their 14 constituencies. ‘‘Our view is that the BCP should sort out the issue of their president’s constituency and they must confine themselves to their 17 allocated constituencies,’’ the BMD spokesperson said.
Meanwhile some BCP leaders are said to be unhappy at the way Boko stole the limelight from the BCP when he announced that he has instituted a court case on the embezzlement of funds from the National Petrol Fund. ‘‘The truth is, that court case was launched by BCP lawyers and out of courtesy and to show unity, we presented it to the UDC leadership so it comes out in public as a decision of the collective but Boko announced it as his brainchild during the UDC launch ’’, the high ranking BCP official revealed. He also revealed that it is for that reason that the BCP has now decided to go solo in their recent court case challenging the legitimacy of Masisi’s presidency.
Reached for comment, Saleshando downplayed the UDC leadership shenanigans and said their differences are nothing to be alarmed of as it always happens when people from different backgrounds come to work together. ‘‘Like any team of strangers who decide to work together, the early stages of the cooperation will be dominated by misunderstanding and possible friction,’’ the BCP leader said. Saleshando said it was to be expected that they will go through the forming, storming and norming stages before they perform to their optimal level.
‘‘We have identified regime change as the minimum programme worth pursuing collectively for the advancement of our democracy,’’ he said.
Boko for his part dismissed the allegations as ‘‘utter rubbish’’. He said he was away in Azerbaijan and had not consulted anybody. ‘‘So, whoever is peddling that nonsense has a lot of idle time for which they must find better use,’’ the UDC leader said on Monday.
Pilane has also dismissed allegations of acrimony among UDC leaders, insisting that, ‘‘My relationship with Comrade Presidents Boko, Molapise and Saleshando is as it should be-NORMAL’’. He said there are people who are constantly feeding the press false information with intention to drive a wedge between them in the UDC. ‘‘They will fail as I will never cooperate in those attempts’’, the BMD leader said on Monday. He also dismissed as untrue allegations that he wants to be the one calling for meetings and not Saleshando. ‘‘All I have said that is normal practice in all organizations, whatever their nature, it is the President of the UDC who must call meetings of the NEC of the UDC . Any member of the UDC NEC who wishes that a meeting of the NEC be called must express that wish to the President of the UDC. The President of the UDC should then consult the Presidents of the 4 parties in the UDC, give us the reasons given to him by the member who requested the meeting, and together we will reach a decision on the request’’. Pilane said after the aforementioned procedure, the UDC President can then call the meeting with an agreed agenda. ‘‘I only sought to point out what is normal procedure in all self-respecting organizations’’, Pilane said, adding further that he has never cancelled any meeting.