BANKS NDEBELE points to several constituencies won as a demonstrable illustration of unity of opposition forces proving to be of strength
The other day I was trying to analyse the 2019 general elections, specifically zooming on the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) managed areas. I found a very interesting factor that characterised most, if not all, of the areas where the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) performed exceptionally well that point to the value and political capital gain that can be realised by merging or having political parties coming under one stable with others even foregoing their identities.
I know sometimes this becomes a very emotive subject when it is raised, primarily because we don’t normally approach it with utmost objectivity and above-board honesty. There are benefits, some of which are the following:
1. Bringing parties together or merging them removes the competitive element between parties pursuing a similar political agenda. That element is then passed on to members instead of political entities, thereby enriching democracy. When parties exist as independent entities, even where there is a working relationship, there is always that protectionist tendency of self-preservation that springs from human nature.
2. It removes the element of divided attention in that parties don’t end up focusing on their individual organisations and have the additional burden of the unity project. It can be more daunting and draining in both energy and resources than when one was having just one compressed and compact project to focus all their attention on.
3. It creates a semblance of stability in the eyes of the voter. The voter, like an investor, wants assurance of stability. They want to know if where they are investing, whether it be by voting or the actual financial investment, the environment is conducive for such an undertaking. They want assurance of security of their investment, votes or financial investment. It goes without saying that a compact solitary unit provides more cohesion than where power is negotiated and brokered through democratic dispensations.
4. It has a magmatic pull of the voter base in one direction which can acrue over time.
This is what I found. I started with focusing on Old Naledi where the UDC managed to win two BCP managed wards in the Gaborone South constituency. I realised that the coming together of the BCP and the New Democratic Front (NDF) in 2005 was bearing fruit. The NDF was a splinter from the Botswana National Front (BNF) after the infamous Kanye Congress that ushered in Cde Otsweletse Moupo as the party president. For many years Old Naledi was the base for the BNF founder Dr Kenneth Koma. When the NDF was formed, he associated with it, and that moved a lot of members to the new establishment.
When NDF finally came together with the BCP, that base gravitated towards the BCP by association. That is how the likes of the former BCP firebrand and current Deputy Mayor of the capital city, Cde Lotty Manyepedza, the current councillor for Naledi North, Cde Oarabile Motlaleng Senyolonyolo Motlaleng, the just immediate past Secretary General of the BCP, cde Philip Monowe and others came from.
In 2006/7, when a vacancy opened in Naledi North ward after the death of the then councillor, the BCP backed the NDF-sponsored candidate, Oarabile Motlaleng. He lost, and lost again in 2009. But the numbers showed growth. He would win the seat in 2014, resoundingly. It is not surprising that of the three BCP Naledi wards, the UDC won two, being Naledi South and Naledi North. This is because of the political capital investment over the years through the coming together of the BCP and the NDF.
I then moved to Nkange constituency, another BCP-managed UDC area. Here the BCP, through its merger with the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), managed to absorb the former Botswana Progressive Union (BPU) members, which had already been absorbed under BAM. For some time BAM has had councillors in the Nkange area. When it merged with the BCP in 2010, the political capital of the union was bolstered.
There is no longer BCP, BPU or BAM but a single compact unit called BCP of the UDC. The focus is in one direction. The UDC won the Nkange consituency, this being the first time the seat went to opposition. It would not be far-fetched to say this is chiefly because of the merger between BAM and the BCP. May I also state the current BCP Treasurer, who is also the UDC Treasurer, Denis Alexander, came in through the BAM and BCP merger.
Another BCP-managed consituency where the UDC triumphed is Mahalapye West. Here is where the BCP took under its stable Social Democratic Party (SDP) which had great personalities in the likes of the late Cde Morotsi! The SDP is not known to have made any significant impact in the politics of Mahalapye, but sometimes just the goodwill that comes with fostering unity can bear immeasurable political capital gains.
The most noticeable benefit so far of the merging of BAM and the BCP is demonstrated in Ngamiland where the UDC bagged four BCP-managed constituencies, displacing the fatigued Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). For the first time Ngami District is under the control of the opposition UDC.
In 2014, the BCP managed to win Ramotswa constituency for the first time, chiefly because of the BAM-BCP merger. We let our guard down in 2019. The issue of BaLete land where the President went to the Kgotla in Ramotswa and pledged to resolve it duped BaLete into believing that a dawn had come. Walk the streets of GaMalete today, their disappointment is written all over their faces because contrary to what was promised, they are battling for their land in the courts.
In conclusion, I here submit that there is greater political capital gain in bringing parties together into compact solitary units than having them remain disjointed entities with competing interests. It is my honest and sincere submission that if maybe for reasons that it may not be conducive to try that route prior to 2024 elections, let it be the collective or bilateral commitment for all the opposition parties that it is our major goal post-2024 to reduce many players! The opposition should create and present that semblance of stability which is akin to a stable environment for financial investment.