Opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is in no hurry to resolve one of its affiliate parties, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) impasse. It has this week emerged that following the meeting held at Francistown last weekend UDC could not come out clearly and pronounce a bold position on the matter.
Prior, the UDC headship was also accused of failing to arbitrate before the infamous controversial party congress that resulted in two gatherings regarded as congresses giving birth to two committees of the same party. Instead, they let the issue get out of control until only this week as both party committees, one controlled by Ndaba Gaolathe while the other by Sidney Pilane have been furnished with letters requesting for their authority to intercede in the deadlock. “Letters have been sent to both parties involved in the stand-off (Ndaba and Pilane committees) to request for authority to mediate in the matter,” a source who attended the key meeting at Francistown told WeekendPost.
It is still unclear why the mother body is seeking authority from the two groups to mediate in the matter. However what has been said and justified before is that the UDC constitution does not allow or state whether and how the party can mediate in the matters of its affiliate parties. This, they maintain is a way of UDC avoiding to be seen as poking its nose or “interfering” in the affairs of the member parties, which may set a bad precedence.
It is also understood that the UDC resolution from the weekend meeting is believed to have been enigmatic; the move which the UDC says was premeditated to keep their house tidy and in order. “Well there is nothing secret per se but we just wanted to make sure that we inform the concerned parties first before making our stand and progress subsequent to the meeting, public,” a key source who sits at the party meetings insisted. The source also pointed out that they will continue with UDC meetings without BMD which currently has to put its house in order. In fact, if push comes to shove, he said they are ready to continue and even contest the 2019 General Elections without the BMD, although it was cited as an extreme case scenario.
“If they can’t participate why should we be held hostage by their internal strife?” the source asked rhetorically. Meanwhile, when reached for comment on the matter, the UDC official spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa confirmed that indeed the party met in Francistown and resolved to send letters to the two BMD committees asking them for consent to mediate. “Yes they have been sent the letters this week and we are hoping they will respond before two weeks and then considering the feedback then the party will map a way forward on the issue,” he told this publication. Mohwasa said basically, the letters were saying that the UDC requests for a meeting with the two groups separately on the 22nd and 23rd of this month.
He emphasized that the way forward would be decided by what comes out of the meetings. On why the party is not resolving the matter speedily, he defended the UDC saying the issue is not as easy as people not involved think. “It’s not an easy matter. We take this issue seriously. We cannot impose our issues on them. In fact we want to build not destroy. So we will take time and see how we can resolve this amicably,” he said. According to the UDC mouthpiece, the Francistown meeting had the BMD matter as a priority and stand alone and that shows how they seriously took this matter.
In other matters also emanating from the meeting in Francistown, the UDC also resolved to undertake the national launch of the new revamped UDC (inclusive of Botswana Congress Party (BCP)) later this year on the 25th November. The new UDC symbol which is of royal blue colour with four panels is also undergoing registering with Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) this week. The four panels symbolize the cooperation between the four contracting parties Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), BCP and BMD. The UDC will also be touring the country to campaign as soon as possible.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.