THE PUBLIC IS PATIENTLY WAITING: Dumelang Saleshando, Duma Boko and Ndaba Gaolathe are expected to say “I DO”.
Ndaba wants UDC parties to apply for membership cards
The call for membership cards described as toxic
The BPP not happy: If we disagree, we retreat
BMD surprised, wants answers on that letter
BNF will not discuss internal party issues publicly
With just three years before the next general elections, Batswana are waiting in anticipation for the finalisation of talks between the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) partners and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). But already contracted members of the UDC are quibbling on a letter instructing them to apply for UDC membership cards.
The latest jolt comes in the form of a requirement by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leadership for all its member parties to make a formal application for the party’s membership cards – a move which is already causing confusion and have left its member parties anxious.
Sometime this week, UDC Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe wrote letters to UDC member parties, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), informing them to apply to be members of the UDC.
“I am writing to advice that the long delayed roll out of the UDC card as envisaged in the UDC constitution is now underway, subject to your guidance and input in the process. The UDC has succeeded in securing the hardware and software systems to implement the UDC card registration initiative,” Ndaba stated before adding that, “as you will be aware, the UDC constitution requires the issuance of cards by the UDC, which issuance, given the structure of the UDC, needs to take into account the involvement of all the contracting parties as well as members who wish to join as direct members of UDC.”
According to Ndaba, the UDC meeting of 16 August resolved to commence the printing of the cards provided that the contracting parties are advised of this before it is made public and also to allow the leadership of the contracting parties to each secure and coordinate a proportion of the UDC membership forms.
“As part of these first steps, the constitution invites contracting parties to each submit membership applications, as a group member, as many of the key decisions are determined by group members. The UDC will issue your party with a group membership card. The UDC will also issue individual membership cards as of end of August which cards will indicate all the details as normally required by parties including for reference, party affiliation within the UDC or direct membership,” he wrote.
Ndaba further indicated that the process, however, does not prevent parties from issuing their party cards and the hope is that all parties will coordinate their databases with that of the UDC.
Although he has confirmed having written to all UDC party members, BPP maintains it has not received such a letter. In fact its spokesperson, Rasina Rasina stressed that, “we have not received the letter and we are not looking forward to receiving one. In my understanding there is no such a letter and it cannot exist.”
“The UDC is a party formed of goodwill and of doing things better. It is not possible to say that we have to apply for membership because UDC was formed by us (concerned opposition parties),” explained BPP’s spokesperson, Rasina.
Rasina’s argument is that they are already contracted UDC members and therefore do not expect to be called to reapply for membership. He suggested that BPP is a party that “believes in a very simple sphere and we love UDC. We believe that, to run this country we need to engage as much as possible and where we differ we have to engage and when still disagree we retreat.”
Rasina’s point was that, “the thing about national governance is not about winning a Council seat, but rather about what ideas you have to take care of the ordinary people.”
While UDC is yet to set a date to launch the UDC card officially, BMD’s Secretary General, Gilbert Mangole has similar reservations about the introduction of the card.
Describing the letter as potentially toxic, Mangole said: “It is true, we have received the letter but we are yet to meet as the Party to understand the bigger meaning of the contained message. We are perplexed. It came as a surprise. As far as we know, we are full members of UDC, we are its founders and we are still to seek clarity on why we are required to apply for membership cards,” Mangole stated.
UDC’s publicity Secretary who doubles as BNF’s Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa declined to discuss the issue because, “it is an internal party communiqué.”
UDC’s manifesto and aim, is to oust the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, the only party which has ruled this country, however the constant infighting ahead of elections might cost the opposition heavily at the polls in 2019.
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.