Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications, Moeti Mohwasa, says there is no truth to allegations that the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was sidelined in decision making and at the press conference organized to announce cooperation with the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) on Friday.
Following the press conference at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng on Friday, chatter arose suggesting that despite only joining the UDC recently, the BCP were put at centerstage and even directed proceedings at the expense of the BMD, a co-founder of the umbrella party movement, leaving them “in the cold”.
“As you noticed, it was only the BNF and BCP banners put up. Why didn’t they put something which represented all four parties?” one source said, adding “It was also surprising that the very same people who were welcomed to the fold were the ones at the forefront of the event even directing the proceedings. It’s like they have always been there, it’s like they were the home owners. Which visitor runs the show?” said a source who said they felt like “spectators in our own game.”
In fact, two BMD members of parliament at the event were sitting at an area designated for members of the public and not at the top table. “How do you have an MP stand in an event like this one? Its total disrespect,” the member said, adding that “We are glad nonetheless because we now know where we stand in the umbrella and what we have been in the umbrella.”
Responding to the issue of banners Mohwasa said the UDC let alone the BMD and BPP did not have banners that could be put up, “hence only putting up banners of the BNF alongside the BCP’s”. He also said it fell to the BCP to direct proceedings as he himself was busy finalizing Boko’s speech.
“They called and I told them to go ahead and start with the press conference as I was delayed,” Mohwasa said.
He said there was nothing wrong with the BCP directing proceedings because “We are one, besides, it was a matter of who was available at the time…No one is disgruntled. People should stop worrying about small things.”
Some sources say the coming of the BCP symbolizes a reunion of the BNF and its “breakaway party”- a reference to the controversial splintering of the two parties in 1998. This, it is suggested, is likely to open up the underlying mistrust between the BNF and the BMD, with the latter being accused by some critics of being one foot in UDC and one foot in the BDP from which it broke away.
Sources within the BMD say the allocation of 22 constituencies to the BNF and 17 to the BCP was a strategic move by the two parties: “They did this to ensure that as disgruntled as the BMD is right now, if we decide to one day break away, then the total number of BNF and BCP constituencies will still enable them to take power without us.”
Meanwhile, UDC president Duma Boko said what they agreed on was the best they could come up with. “It has not been an easy road. There were huge challenges, but this normal in any form of negotiations,” he highlighted, maintaining that “Sure proof that there have been real negotiations is when no negotiator walks out of the negotiation table feeling triumphant because negotiations are by nature a zero-sum exercise. You win some and lose some,” he said.
The arrival of the BCP to the UDC will allay fears that arose last week when the launch did not take place as envisaged. This unification of opposition parties however is historical as it marks the first time they have formed single block.
UDC president Duma Boko has also confirmed receiving a complaint letter from the BPP who are querying the number of constituencies they were allocated. He says the issue will be discussed.
The new structure of the UDC as announced on Friday comprises the president (allocated to BNF) and two vice presidents allocated to BCP’s Dumelang Salenshando and BMD’s Ndaba Gaolathe. UDC treasury was allocated to BCP, Head of Communications to BNF, Youth Affairs secretary to BMD, Labor Secretary to BNF, Legal Affairs secretary to BPP while the Gender Affairs portfolio was given the BCP
“Because of the two vice presidents, there will no position of Secretary General as the duties of the SG will be distributed amongst the two vice presidents,” Boko explained on Friday.
The 17 constituencies allocated the BCP are Ramotswa, Mahalapye West, Sefhare/Ramokgonami, Palapye, Selibe Phikwe East, Selibe Phikwe West, Mmadinare, Francistown West, Francistown East, Ngami, Nkange, Nata, Okavango, Chobe, Maun East, Shashe West and Bobonong.
Meanwhile, a UDC national conference is expected to be held in July this year.