Opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) is meeting this weekend in Francistown to discuss several contentious key issues of the party in preparation for 2019 General Elections.
The highly classified meeting will be attended by leaders of UDC party member Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). This comes after the BPP failed to pitch up at the preceding Umbrella party meeting held at Tlokweng. The previous meeting was the first to be held subsequent to the individual member parties’ congresses and congresses conducted in July.
At the Francistown meeting, Weekend Post can confirm that on top of the agenda is the deliberation on the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) impasse which has left the party in bitter parallel groups all claiming to be the NEC committee of the BMD. The BMD came out of two bitter rival groups from what was supposed to be a one congress from Bobonong that ended up giving birth to two separate Committees with one led by Ndaba Gaolathe while the other Sidney Pilane.
According to a highly placed source who makes part of the top table at UDC, the Francistown meeting will, amongst issues on agenda, discuss the BMD hubbub. As such he also confirmed that the BMD was not even invited to the meeting. “Only BNF, BCP and BPP have been invited to this meeting. For obvious reasons, BMD was not invited as they have two different groups claiming separately that they make the legitimate BMD Committee,” said the political leader in the UDC who spoke to Weekend Post on Friday this week.
He however was quick to highlight that the public must note that the UDC is not going there to pronounce which committee they recognize between Ndaba led and Pilane’s. The immaculate source stressed: “the UDC philosophy is about uniting. We are not going to choose between the two but to reconcile them. We believe the two should both continue working together under UDC.” Meanwhile when this publication reached the UDC official spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa for a comment, he also confirmed that such said meeting will take place.
“Yes I can confirm that UDC NEC will be having a meeting in Francistown this weekend. The meeting will be held by all our parties under UDC except BMD,” Mohwasa pointed out to this publication. Although he was cagey to discuss the details of the meetings and agenda he however, when pressed further, conceded that obviously the hot potato BMD issue will be discussed vigorously. He added that other matters will be purely house-keeping issues regarding the party but would not be drawn further into the nitty gritty’s of such. Weekend Post has also gathered that the UDC NEC will also discuss the party’s new program of action that will be a build up towards the imminent General Elections.
The action entails officially recognizing the BCP as a member of UDC and incorporating it as is the case with BNF, BMD and BPP. “Since January we have been talking about this, just talk. So that needs to be formally launched. We need to launch and re-vamp the UDC incorporating the BCP. And that means UDC would essentially include the BCP in the new UDC to be launched very soon.” The meeting at Francistown would also discuss new UDC’s unique colours (blue) and new voting symbol to be used in the coming elections. The UDC is also expected to touch on the issue of Primary elections by the opposition block as a whole.
In its recent conference, BCP resolved that they will start primary elections this year and therefore are expected to lure other members in the Umbrella to do likewise. This move is also intended to counter ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s resolution to also hold primary elections in opposition held constituencies as early as October later this year.
In other issues, Saleshando who is the BCP president is said to be confirmed that he is contesting the next elections. BCP Central committee took the decision after discussing it for a while. The party is still weighing options only of where he can contest. There is strong talk by the party Central Committee of three areas encompassing several recognized constituencies where Saleshando would be placed. These include areas of Gaborone, Maun and Selibe Phikwe.
Weekend Post has established that there is still animosity between the UDC contracting partners’ members which is evidenced by BCP and BMD’s public out spats demonstrating that members may not want the other. Some BPP members as well are said to be unsettled by the coming in of BCP. It is still to be achieved whether the parties will appreciate each other and work in harmony towards the impending 2019 National Elections.
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.