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Boko, Pilane clash again over UDC constitution

Two renowned Advocates in Botswana, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate President Duma Boko and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Advocate Sidney Pilane are geared for a nasty showdown on the interpretation of the constitution of the UDC. 

UDC is a coalition consisting of the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and BMD which is headed by Pilane. This week, the leadership of the UDC, comprising mainly of BNF and BCP executive members announced a decision to suspend from the coalition for 14 days pending final decision. The decision has certainly set in motion a legal battle regarding the rights and powers of the contracting partners and the party National Executive Committee (NEC).

While Pilane has been adamant that the UDC is not registered as a political party but just a conglomerate in accordance with its constitution Boko says otherwise – that it is a political party in its context. Pilane has stressed several times in the media and public that the “UDC is not a political party per se, but only an electoral arrangement.” Boko refuted Pilane this week at a press conference in Gaborone announcing the suspension of BMD that UDC is a political formation.

The UDC leader reminisced on the only judgement that justifies his position that was passed by the former Judge Peter Collins in the matter between BPP and Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM). He said Judge Collins made a finding in that case that BAM is not a political party but a coalition saying the reason is that, on the constitution and the way BAM was configured, to the extent that there was no individual membership, BAM only had provision for group membership.

“It could therefore not be a political party. That’s what he says. However the UDC does not fall in that boat because the UDC in its constitution has provision for individual membership,” Boko said. So, he added that on the criteria led by Judge Collins UDC is a political party and so if anybody wants to engage and debate on this matter anywhere, in the courts; both the formal and the courts of public opinion, its Cadit quaestio. In legal contexts, cadit quaestio is a latin used to indicate that an issue is no longer in question, often because a dispute (question) between two parties has either been settled, or dropped.


ON WHICH UDC CONSTITUTION REMAINS IN EFFECT

According to Boko, the constitution of the UDC was registered on the 23 August 2012 and it is that constitution that still applies until it is lawfully and properly amended and duly replaced. Pilane also believes that the current constitution is the one that was registered in 2012 which he adds that it recognises only the founding members in BNF, BMD and BPP and not the BCP. 

ON WHETHER BCP A FULL MEMBER OF UDC

The BMD leader has also indicated that, as of now, BCP has not been formally admitted into the UDC, until a new constitution is submitted to the Register of Societies. Pilane and BPP leadership has presented one to the Registrar nullifying the one submitted by Boko and Saleshando recently. Pilane has stated several times that the BCP is not a member of the umbrella coalition as per the party constitution.

On his part Boko this week clarified that the said constitution of the UDC is that following the conclusions that took place after 2014 General elections the “BCP became a full member of UDC and that situation has not changed, it’s still remains extant.”

ON CONSTITUENCIES: FOR UDC OR INDIVIDUAL PARTIES?

Under the current arrangement of the umbrella, BNF was allocated 22 constituencies, BCP 17, BMD 14 with BPP having only 4. Pilane has emphasised that they have 14 constituencies and that nobody, not the UDC nor anyone else, is going to tell them how to deal with their constituencies, and nobody is going to vet their candidates because they have deliberated and agreed on that matter.

“UDC is not entitled to dictate to the constituent parties how and what they should do in respect of its own matters including constituencies. Let us be clear about this,” Pilane has told Boko previously. However this week Boko asserted that the constituencies belong to the UDC as a collective. Each political party that has been assigned a set of certain particular constituencies, he said has been given the responsibility on behalf of the collective and that the constitution of the collective, the one that they have, says all this parties are allowed ultimately ‘subject to regulation by the collective.’

Boko highlighted: “So it is not something that we plugged from the air but comes from the constitution of the UDC. Each party brings its candidates and they are subject to scrutiny and examination by the collective. BNF, BCP, BPP and BMD have always understood that at some point they will have to submit to an audit by the collective. UDC has a right to pronounce on candidates if they have evidence against them. Its quality assurance to make sure that UDC is represented by the best.”

BOKO FINALLY PRONOUNCES PILANE SUSPENSION

The UDC President has said they have received fierce feedback regarding the BMD leader Sidney Pilane, which is very negative and very uncomplimentary which has tend to affect the UDC leadership as a whole. He said that these things happen and when they respond, they do so because reality compels them to do so and not necessarily that anybody has done any wrong.

“And so when these issues were now reaching a fever peach, boiling on, we convened on the 15th of September to reflect as UDC leadership. And return we did, yesterday in which UDC NEC appreciating the seriousness of the issues and the urgency of dealing with them and also alive to the constitutional imperative that binds us to justice came to a final point where the UDC NEC took a decision to suspend the BMD.”

The BMD was as a result given the opportunity to respond to the issues within 14 days or not later that the 18th of October 2018. At that time the Gaborone Bonnington North lawmaker said they would have made their representations to the NEC and that is when any final decisions will be taken. Meanwhile Pilane has recently told Boko and Saleshando that they have no powers to suspend or expel them or BMD from the UDC.

“The UDC is not competent to decide who may represent the BMD in the UDC NEC, nor is it empowered to suspend or expel the BMD from the UDC,” he said then. The contentious leader explained that the relationship inter se of the parties which are members of the UDC as a coalition is a contractual one, and the agreed UDC constitution does not give any contracting party or parties’ authority to suspend or expel another contracting party.

“Even if the UDC had such power, which it does not, it would be able to do so only after due process, which has not been extended. Such a process is not worth undertaking because it would be stillborn,” the BMD leader observed. Neither the BMD nor I have received any communication from anybody concerning any intended or actual suspension or expulsion, he said adding that “if we should, it would not be worth the paper it is written on.”

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