The 2019 general election has seen some big guns fall after they lost their seats in their respective constituencies. The Opposition bloc, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Alliance for Progressives (AP) fell the heaviest after their leaders were defeated in this election.
UDC have lost some big guns in Gaborone in this election – among them Advocate Duma Boko, the party leader. He lost Gaborone Bonninton North to Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Annah Motlhagodi, who was trying her luck at legislating for the third time after two unsuccessful stints with her former party, Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Motlhagodi garnered 6933 votes against Boko’s 4495 votes.
Boko was a casualty as a result of a red wave that had ravaged through the southern based constituencies where the victorious BDP white washed the opposition at both Local Government and Parliament level. Boko had hosted one of the biggest rally launches on the eve of election and the numbers had suggested he was on pole position to retain the constituency, but voters had other ideas.
Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP was another victim of the red wave. He fell to Christian Greef of the BDP who was also trying a shot at legislating for the second time after he was barred from contesting party primaries by his party in 2013. Greef defeated Ndaba with 4603 votes against 3460 votes. Ndaba, a likeable character because of his down to earth approach to issues and intellect was just collateral in the rage that came from voters in Gaborone Bonninton South.
Two other Members of Parliament of the 11th seating from the opposition bench, Phenyo Butale of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) in Gaborone Central; and Haskins Nkaigwa of the UDC in Gaborone North lost their seats to the BDP’s Tumisang Healy and Mpho Balopi respectively. In its whitewash of the opposition in Gaborone, the BDP also managed to push in a new Member of Parliament in Gaborone South, Meshack Mthimkhulu, who won against UDC’s Nelson Ramaotwana.
The BDP also registered casualties as a result of former President Dr Ian Khama in the central district. The BDP lost all the Serowe constituencies hence Kgotla Autlwetse, a former cabinet member was a casualty. The most recognizable fall was that of former Minister of Transport and Communications, Dorcas Makgato who lost to Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang of the UDC. Makgato was a marked target of Ian Khama after he accused her of “insulting his father”. Khama used his influence in the central district to dislodge Makgato. Gobotswana overpowered Makgato with 9341 votes compared to her 5562 votes.
The Khama factor also played out in the Palapye constituency where another former Minister, Moiseraela Master Goya (5252 votes) was defeated by Onneetse Ramogapi (5282 votes). Khama’s party had fielded Dr Kolaatamo Malefho (1806 votes) as MP candidate to ensure that the BDP does not get enough votes to cross the line.
Former Acting Minister of Youth Sport and Culture Development, Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele could not stand against the Khama effect in Shoshong. He ended up losing the constituency to Aubrey Lesaso who pulled 8475 votes against Makgalemele’s 3843 votes. Makgalemele is one of the BDP MPs who was rumoured to have rejected a last minute call from BPF to contest under their ticket. Former Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Thapelo Olopeng lost the Tonota constituency to Moathodi who is making a return to the august house. Olopeng attracted 7125 votes while Moathodi romped further with 8364 votes.
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Advocate Dr Sidney Pilane, is not disappointed by the fact that his party has not been included in all opposition parties’ unity talks, but says BMD National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet and decide appropriate approach for negotiations.
Speaking to this publication on Thursday, Pilane, who’s BMD catapulted opposition representation in parliament to 17, the in 2014 polls, views united opposition as the only tool that can dethrone BDP from State power. BMD was however ejected out of Umbrella project in 2017 after some internal bickering hence it is not part of the ongoing talks by UDC together with Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). “Unity is the only way,” he posits
Opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has this week suffered a major blow as a key witness pulled out in vote rigging claims at the eleventh hour. The key witness, Dikabelo Sekati Selaledi, said he somersaulted on the move as it is now not his considered view that vote rigging occurred in the 2019 General Elections – as the opposition believes – against his previously held view.
The unfortunate development (of Selaledi) necessitated the party to postpone the “people’s court session” which was scheduled for this Saturday in which massive vote rigging “evidence” was to be unearthed to the public on online platforms.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.