The outcome of unity talks between the country’s major opposition parties; Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which has been awaiting final say from member party presidents, is expected to be announced next week (Monday 23rd) in Gaborone.
WeekendPost has it on good authority that the presidents of the opposition parties in talks, Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando are meeting this weekend at an undisclosed place to close the monument agreement. This follows the finalization of the talks by negotiators last year, December.
“Today (Saturday 21st) the party leaders, Boko and Saleshando will meet somewhere specifically to sign and close the deal. When they come back they will announce the decisions they took and final agreement of the negotiations,” an impeccable source closer the talks told this publication.
It is understood that following their meeting they will prepare for a press briefing scheduled for Monday next week to officially announce the outcomes of the talks and present the new party, UDC+. “The aim of the press conference would be to announce that there is an agreement between UDC and BCP, and what that agreement entails. The details of course will come in the course of time,” the source continued. “It is where critical questions will be answered,” he continued.
However, indications suggest that there has been an animosity inside the negotiation teams with BCP dissatisfied with the appointment of Saleshando as Secretary General of the new movement. The move saw the constitution stream at the talks plunge into a deadlock that derailed their agenda and was referred to the main negotiating team and passed to the leaders to “address.”
While the BCP negotiation team was settled with the matter, other party faithful’s on the ground spurn it and easily dismiss it as belittling Saleshando in a way. On the other hand Saleshando is said not to be happy with the arrangement although he is willing to compromise. “BCP negotiation team at the talks agreed on that, that’s why Saleshando also is fighting to reverse it – he has the power to reverse it as the final say lies with them.”
Although the matter is still being discussed this weekend, this publication has gathered that Boko, his advisors and other structures of the BCP want Saleshando put as a running mate to Boko which in essence is a Vice president position. The BCP is said to be fighting tooth and nail for the position which has also witnessed other names being dropped for the portfolio like that of Ndaba Gaolathe of Botswana Movement for Democracy, which is an affiliate of UDC. Observers believe Gaolathe has never abandoned the umbrella and may do well as a VP looking as his skills and expertise.
The issue is said to have divided the negotiating parties particularly those in the BCP and likewise in the UDC who still did not want to see the cooperation project take off. Some argue the parties may still do well on their individual capacities. It is understood that although the talks have been engulfed by road humps, the BCP, which alone shunned the second lap of the umbrella talks following the collapse of the first towards the 2014 General Elections did not want to be “the bad guy” again this time around.
It is believed that they (BCP) “have learned a lesson the hard way” as they performed miserably at the polls. The source further said to WeekendPost: “If push comes to shove, and knowing Batswana’s aspirations now (of a united opposition), and although the party wants Saleshando as VP and not SG, we do not believe it can make talks collapse.”
In fact he said whether he is “SG or not” the cooperation will be there – and that’s the bottom line. Furthermore, it was said that in case Saleshando does not become the SG, and do away with the position, there may be two Vice Presidents at party level. “We may have two VP’s with different roles and assignments at the party and in case we win government the president will have the prerogative to choose his only VP in the new government.”
In the UDC+ Motlatsi Molapisi remains the Chairman of the new formation of the opposition parties.The party has a new constitution, practices Social Democracy in outfit and colours are likely to remain as that of the current UDC. The name of BCP will fall out even at the constituencies that they contest. According to the reliable source closer to the development, Boko and Saleshando have had a great relationship during the negotiations.
“Boko has been very good and he has kept his promises that he has made,” he said adding that although a constituency is not a priority for Saleshando, Boko may move further to allocate a constituency for him in Gaborone – Gaborone South most likely. Saleshando lost his former constituency, Gaborone Central in the last General Elections to BMD’s Phenyo Butale who is likely to contest the constituency again based on incumbency as agreed at the talks.
Other issues which have been pending on the talks, touching on constituency allocation, saw Lephepe/Lentsweletau and Lerala/Maunatlala areas both being allocated to BMD of the UDC after independent candidates who came after Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) at the polls defected to the party (BMD). The conclusion of the talks will see ruling BDP coming head to head with one opposition block in the name of the Umbrella for Democratic Change plus (UDC+) in the impending 2019 General Elections.The ground-breaking deal emanating from the talks would be a first timer in the political landscape as well as the history of Botswana politics.
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.