AP, armed with its liberal ideological perspective, has laid claim and has targeted the very same progressive forces that BNF has since 1965 unsuccessfully sought to rally to attain its minimum objective. AP has set as its maximum objective to create a new Botswana, not just to unseat BDP. To me, herein lies deep-seated threat to BNF…
REX L. CHABAKA
With regards to the contentious BMD political conflict that culminated in the formation of a splinter political party formed being Alliance for Progressives (AP), some in our country seem to have come to the conclusion that it was purely a BMD affair. Interestingly, this is the position held by UDC leadership.
President Duma Boko has gone on record and publicly mounted a strong defense, indeed resolutely proclaimed and justified the reason why UDC as the coalition mother body could not “intervene” in an “internal BMD matter”. He posited that there is no institutional framework for UDC to impose itself on internal strife of any of its affiliate members without “invitation”. Some are of the view that UDC had an obligation as a coalition body of contracting political affiliates to intervene and facilitate a conciliatory role of its member. Some even warned and cautioned that failure to promptly respond and offer mediation to BMD rivalry camps would result in undesirable consequences for UDC. Sadly, that is exactly how it played out in the end.
Social conflict is inevitable and unavoidable in human relations. However, what is undesirable is that if poorly managed or avoided, even latent form of conflict poses the potential to unexpectedly detonate into violence. This is what happened in Matshekge Hill School, Bobonong during BMD’s Congress. The question is: were there ever, at any point, prospects to circumvent it or was it inevitable?
LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION OR FAILURE OF UDC LEADERSHIP?
In an article published in “The Botswana Gazette” in Opinion Forum, dated Wednesday 27 – 03 October 2017, p. 12, Kealeboga “Ras” Manxo Speaking Dipogiso clearly rejects the notion that political crisis that engulfed UDC was a BMD matter. He locates the source of the problem as immature leadership on the part of Duma Boko as UDC President. Furthermore, he contends that rather than being a BMD internal issue, it is a UDC matter which needed its prompt response. In other words, to him Boko has failed as UDC leader to address a conflict that involved one of its coalition partners. To the extent that UDC does not have a mechanism to attempt to resolve its internal contradictions as an organization. To him, this is expressed by Boko’s “preposterous verdict” over the impasse within BMD. In Kealeboga’s opinion, both leadership failure and lack of conflict resolution model (as he terms it) accounts for the current UDC state of affairs. I agree with Kealeboga’s analysis to a certain extent.
SELF-INFLICTED TRAJEDY, LEADERSHIP DEFICIENCY OR SELFISH AMBITIONS?
Firstly, intra-BMD conflict, or that of any of UDC affiliate is and inevitably, intrinsically a UDC phenomenon that cannot be disentangled from it. BMD, BNF or BCP are part of the whole, the collective or mother body called UDC. How UDC leadership arrived at divorcing or disassociating itself from its own affiliate structures is puzzling to me.
Secondly, UDC leadership’s resoluteness of “non-interference” in “internal matters” of its members is clearly articulated and on record through President Boko. This makes one wonder if there was ever commitment on the part of the leadership to see BMD impasse resolved. It would be interesting to know if, as much as there is no institutional provision for “interference” to resolve intra-affiliate contradictions, is there such provision for affiliates to initiate for such an action from UDC? Boko loudly stated in clear terms that BMD had to first sound “rescue alarm” before UDC could step in. If there is indeed provision for such, at what level is an affiliate party expected to submit a “request” for mediation by the mother body? Furthermore, if so provided, does UDC have power to pass judgement or final ruling or pronouncement that is binding to contracting affiliates in the event of such mediation effort? Advocate Sydney Pilane categorically says UDC does not have such powers. Sadly, BMD latent conflict blossomed into a full blown one in Bobonong. Consequently, the party splinted. Both these incidents happened right under the helpless watch of UDC. Grounds for justification for failure of resolution of the conflict is the absence of an appropriate institutional mechanism within UDC. This is sad. Its catastrophic in the sense that attainment of state power and regime change by and through the current UDC leadership appears elusive. Why would UDC leadership, for all intents and purposes, set out to stab itself in the back by not making provision for resolution of its own contradictions that have the potential to deny it attainment of the objective for which it was brought into existence, or worse, lead to its crumbling? Does this exonerate the late Dr. Elmon Tafa who predicted that UDC would collapse before 2019?
It is incontestable that not only is civil society in Botswana inactive, dormant and weak, but is also incapable of offering sustainable mediation of forms of social conflict in our country. In addition, lack of conflict resolution mechanisms pervades all our voluntary institutions: The Church, political formations, sports fraternity and trade unions. In fact, it is these very civil society bodies like BOCONGO and the Church that should have been the first to voluntarily mediate the BMD conflict. Unfortunately, they could not. The Church in Botswana is discredited as a result of schism, maladministration, financial greed and ethical issues. BOCONGO appears defunct and increasingly becoming irrelevant. However, the absence of such a formal mechanism of conflict resolution cannot be used as an excuse for abdication of attempts of conciliatory efforts internally, and even appealing for external intervention by experts where necessary. In the case of the BMD conflict, no attempt was made by UDC to resolve it. In fact, any effort to do so on the part of UDC leadership, in view of what was at stake, should have been done before Bobonong Congress. UDC should have used its influence to facilitate the build up towards the Congress by directly supervising the preparations, nomination of delegates, selection of the venue, drawing of the agenda, convening of the Congress and finally, conducting the elections themselves. Not only that, UDC should have influenced and ensured that BMD invites external observers (both from within and without Botswana). By so doing, UDC would have demonstrated impeccable leadership maturity and facilitated a successful BMD Congress, the highest decision-making body of the party to freely deliberate, determine, set aside or uphold any decision made by its National Executive Committee before the congress. Painfully, UDC directly aided disenfranchisement of BMD members and denied them their constitutional power to make a determination on the future of their organization. In my view, this is injustice that Ndaba Gaolathe speaks of. Not only did UDC fail to timely manage BMD conflict, but also aided and influenced its detonation into violence. Subsequently, this resulted in a BMD splinter party and has thrown UDC into a much bigger crisis. What is puzzling being that the Democratic Alliance of South Africa was willing to mediate over the very same conflict.
Why did UDC leadership not extend that opportunity to Democratic Alliance?
The argument that UDC could not use its influence to attempt a peaceful negotiated settlement of BMD deadlock before Bobonong congress due to lack of an internal institutional framework within it is gibberish and an insult to our intelligence. It has to be dismissed with utmost contempt. Similarly, deficient leadership skills on the part of UDC is also implausible. The coalition body is made up of intelligent, capable and highly learned and rational leaders. The fact that they managed to forge ahead and bring into being UDC alliance of ideologically diverse polities and despite glaring political challenges, bears testimony to that. I dare postulate that the only plausible and logical conclusion to arrive at is that non-intervention in BMD crisis by UDC was a deliberate and premeditated political move. The aim was not to throw UDC in crisis. On the contrary, it was meant to get rid of BMD, (Ndaba in particular from UDC coalition) and re-align coalition partners. There are two obvious reasons for that. First, Ndaba Gaolathe was increasingly becoming too popular and a threat to Boko’s political power base in the run towards 2019. Secondly, right from inception of BNF, its hardcore vanguards (communists, today labelled “fearfokols”) are not comfortable with a post-BDP national democratic dispensation led by nationalists, liberals or entrepreneurs. To them, only a communist leader is the rightful placed cadre to be the first President of post BDP prolonged rule. Every long-standing BNF member who has been part of its defunct structures such as Botswana Socialist Youth, Communist Youth League, UB Student Mass or at some point attended its Study Groups is aware of this fact. This perspective has resulted in utter disrespect of other BNF members as well by communists and utter arrogance.
THE DEMISE OR FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR UDC+ COALITION?
Some believe that the current UDC crisis to which the coalition body itself has largely contributed to, spells its demise. It is probably too early to pronounce with absolute certainty that the opposition coalition has reached a dead end. However, it is clear that a turbulent and bumpy road lies ahead. UDC still has to resolve and make a stand on admissibility of the defiant war-like Sydney Pilane’s remnant BMD. In light of the formation of Alliance For Progressive (AP), of all the three UDC affiliates, BNF is the most threatened party and stands to be the most loser, politically. The reason is that BNF was formed as a mass political organization with a mandate to mobilize and unite all progressive forces (workers, political parties, farmers, business people and students) towards attainment of a national democratic revolution (change of government from the moribund conservative BDP). AP, armed with its liberal ideological perspective, has laid claim and has targeted the very same progressive forces that BNF has since 1965 unsuccessfully sought to rally to attain its minimum objective. AP has set as its maximum objective to create a new Botswana, not just to unseat BDP. To me, herein lies deep-seated threat to BNF: Ndaba Gaolathe is a good communicator who inspires hope and a very influential leader who seems to be articulating the vision of a new nation to the citizenry (especially the youth) very clearly. It also appears that a large section of the population is listening and responding to what he is saying. The degree to which AP markets itself, over time, is most likely to render the mandate of the “golden” boys of over 50 years, with little to show irrelevant. If BNF wants to remain relevant in the political landscape, it needs to shed off its obsession with empty Marxist rhetoric and slogans. With a population of less than 3 million, citizens of this Republic are faced with serious challenges such as high unemployment (87, 000 youth), high levels of inequality, poverty, increasing economic corruption by state elites, useless and wasteful cosmetic economic programmes like Ipelegeng and poverty eradication, increasing disrespect for the rule of law, nepotism and political clientilism and weak institutions. There is urgent need for radical transformation, not reformation of our society. To that end, hollow and inoperable, orthodox and arrogant chants like “reactionary”, “revolutionary”, etc will not deliver this nation out of these realities. We need original and innovative leaders who can inspire us to dream, dream to create a self-sustaining society that is a global player. We need leaders who can motivate and encourage us that “Botswana can be better”
BMD internal political conflict was bound to have unpleasant repercussions for UDC for the simple reason that it is an affiliate member that played a significant role in the political milestone of the coalition in 2014 general elections. Non-intervention by UDC leadership in BMD crisis was not hindered by lack of institutional framework. It was not even due to crisis of leadership or mediocrity on the part of UDC. On the contrary, it was a well-orchestrated move that was politically expedient for BNF in particular. To be precise, BNF under Boko, driven purely by selfish ambitions exercised political agency to remove a liberal BMD and accommodate BCP. This action was mutually convenient to both BNF and BCP in many ways, but much more to Duma Boko. With BMD out of the UDC equation, BCP President Dumelang Saleshando stood a much better chance to win Gaborone Central constituency, deputize Boko in 2019 and cash in on currently BMD held constituencies like Mogoditshane, Francistown South and others. Ideologically, BCP is much more inclined to BNF through its social democracy perspective. It makes sense why admission of BCP to UDC was swiftly processed at the exclusion of the 2014 conveners. To prove this point, currently UDC+ (BNF and BCP) has planned a series of star rallies around the country at the exclusion of the remnant BMD under Pilane and BPP. However, this act of unilateralism by BNF and BCP, inevitably, will plunge UDC+ into much deep crisis. Most importantly, Ndaba Gaolathe’s liberal popularity was perceived (still is) as a direct and hostile threat to Boko’s political ambitions come 2019. Ndaba and his team are smart and have sharp political and legal advisors in their corner. They saw through UDC-BNF led hatched plot. It was a premeditated choice not to facilitate political solution to BMD debacle.