The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) meeting held this week has resolved that all Members of Parliament and Councilors of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) cross the floor to join the UDC with immediate effect. The President of the BCP, Dumelang Saleshando is expected to write a letter to the all constituencies informing them of the decision.
The decision to shift BCP MPs and Councilors was taken at a UDC meeting which was originally aimed at addressing the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) crisis but this could not happen after one of the contracting partners the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) absconded. Following this decision, the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) Youth League released a scathing statement in which they refer to BCP as a “third party” that does not belong to the UDC NEC.
Only matters that the BNF and the BCP could resolve conclusively at the meeting were addressed. BPP leader, Motlatsi Molapise supports Gaolathe and holds him in high regard, speculation is that he deliberately handicapped the UDC meeting. As per the UDC agreement, each party has been given one slot for an additional member to the UDC Executive Committee. BCP has two Members of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse of Selibe Phikwe West and Samuel Rantuana of Ramotswa as well 57 councillors across the country.
Contracting partners of the UDC are Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana Movement for Democracy and Botswana Congress Party (BCP). At the Wednesday meeting held at Oasis Hotel in Tlokweng to discuss among others, the problems afflicting the BMD, it was agreed that a follow up meeting be held in Francistown on August 12th. The Francistown meeting is expected to be the final test that could spell the direction of Botswana’s opposition politics. The Wednesday meeting was attended by among others BNF President Duma Boko and Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa, BCP President Dumelang Saleshando and UDC’s Treasurer Dennis Alexander and Taolo Lucas who is UDC’s additional member from the BCP.
The BMD is currently divided and reconciliation has failed after the party held parallel elective congresses in Bobonong where two different National Executive Committees were elected. This has put the UDC, especially its leadership in a precarious situation with the supporters of the two BMD factions seeking legitimacy and endorsement by the UDC. A Nehemiah Modubule led BMD National Executive Committee laid charges that led to the expulsion of Gaolathe, his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi and others from the party. This is what led to a chaotic congress after Gaolathe and Co refused to appear before the Disciplinary committee and were expelled from the party. It is understood that the Gaolathe faction met on Tuesday night in Gaborone at Falcon Crest and agreed with BPP to snub Wednesday’s UDC meeting.
They also discussed the option of forming a new party but chose to wait for the UDC to deliberate on the matter and take a decision. The court route was also discussed but it is not favoured by many. The majority agreed that they should wait for the outcome of the UDC leadership hence the decision of the August 12th meeting could have ramifications. Meanwhile the UDC NEC has written a letter to the Sidney Pilane faction of the BMD informing them of the Ndaba Gaolathe led BMD’s demand for a fresh congress to resolve the impasse. In the said letter the Pilane faction has been asked to respond and state their position as far the demand is concerned.
BPP says BCP is not a UDC NEC member
On another subject the BPP has distanced itself from the UDC meeting that took place at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng. “The BPP is not aware of any legitimate nor a properly constituted meeting of the UDC which took place recently. A meeting between President Duma Boko and friends from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) cannot be taken to be an official meeting of the UDC executive committee. Therefore the meeting being referred to was not a meeting of the UDC executive committee.
The BCP is a third party and does not have rights to attend and participate in official meetings of the UDC executive committee. Those rights are conferred on members of the UDC who are in good standing. The membership of the BCP to the UDC has not been granted. It would not be granted until such time when all the disagreements and concerns registered during the negotiations have been resolved,” wrote the BPPYL President Takula Lenyatso.
According to Lenyatso, the meeting is said to have had intentions to discuss the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and its problems. He stated that discussing positions, issues and problems affecting members of the UDC is a sensitive matter and cannot be done in the presence of third parties, therefore the BPP will not participate in such discussion in the presence of the BCP and/or any other third party unless reasonable grounds can be advanced for that to be done. “The BPPYL and the BPP have not taken any well formed positions concerning issues within the BMD. It should be noted however that the BPP believes in a strict application of the law to maintain order and progress,” he wrote.
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.