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Ready to dump BCP for UDC

Saleshando had to intervene against it from Colombia

Reports emerging from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) camp suggest that the party President, Dumelang Saleshando had to intervene from Colombia to block what some party elders viewed as premature announcement that the minority opposition party was ready to start talks with the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).


Saleshando was in Colombia on the weekend of September 5th when his central committee met to discuss various issues affecting the party including the much anticipated announcement on commencement of talks with the UDC. Party Secretary General, Kentse Rammidi and Spokesperson, Keorapetse Dithapelo were resolute in their stance that a resolution be rubber stamped that talks be motivated instantly.

However they were severely opposed by party veteran, Gobe Matenge and 2014 general election parliamentary candidate for Maun east, Goretetse Kekgonegile.


This publication established that despite the firm opposition, the other group which forms a majority in the central committee was ready to draft a resolution after the heated meeting, when elders sceptical about the envisaged marriage to UDC had to engage the absent President while he was still in Colombia. It has emerged that Saleshando’s dilly dallying on the subject of cooperation and his mixed messages may see the BCP lose a number of its high profile members.

“This time it is not the few young people enticed by goodies from the BDP, it is the real opposition stewards who want to see the Botswana Democratic Party removed from power in 2019,” said a senior BCP member close to the developments.


The central committee was ready to draft a resolution in these words: “The BCP has resolved to join the UDC subject to negotiations in relation to allocation of constituencies and other related matters.” But the resolution was withheld so as to engage regions first. The process has begun.  


A number of key BCP members are said to be ready to dump the party for the UDC owing to Saleshando’s indecisiveness on the subject of joining the UDC. The former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament has recently had his leadership girth put under the microscope.

The opinion of those gauging his bravery in respect to the subject of joining the UDC is that he has a few friends who are misleading him into believing that the BCP has a chance of thriving alone. They also point an accusing finger at some party elders, whose relevance to today’s politics has waned with the passing of time, for blocking Saleshando’s view on the subject of working with the UDC.


At a BCP press conference last week, Saleshando did not appear to be averse to working with the UDC. But what is troubling those around him is the choice of language and the apparent indecisiveness. When he used the phrase “fair deal” when responding to a question from the floor on what the BCP anticipate from the talks, some within his ranks calculated a character of a man fearing the unknown.

BCP’s pro-unity camp is content with Saleshando landing a Vice Presidency seat under the UDC. They also believe that those persuading him against the UDC move want to see him suffer further political humiliation after losing the Gaborone Central to Phenyo Butale of the UDC.


This publication has also learnt that some business people who backed the BCP have threatened to pull the plug should the dilly dallying continue, “in fact some are not financing us anymore because of this issue. They are very clear that a change of government will not occur with the BCP as a stand alone,” said our mole from the BCP. 

It is clear that Saleshando must be ready for turbulence in the first quarter of 2016 as some senior party officials will pressure him to make a public statement that talks are on. Addressing Editors this week, UDC President, Duma Boko pointed out that he only expects talks to start in 2016 as both parties are still sorting out internal issues. However the BCP ranks are of the view that the UDC stance was motivated by BCP’s indecisiveness on the matter.


BCP spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse confirmed that there was a central committee meeting but indicated that the outcome of the meeting is basically what President Saleshando shared at the press conference, “which I think your team attended.” 

However we learn that Keorapetse, Rammidi, Okavango Member of Parliament, Bagalatia Arone; Ramotswa Member of Parliament, Samuel Rantuana; and Nkange 2014 Parliamentary candidate, Dr Never Tshabang are some of the individuals piling up the pressure on Saleshando and his Vice President, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang to expedite the issue of talks.


BCP Youth League President, Tumiso Rakgare on various forums has acknowledged that they have two camps in the party, one being for cooperation while the other antagonises. He said they needed time to walk everyone through the idea of unity with the UDC.

The BCPYL is likely to appoint itself the watchdog of the negotiation process owing to its radical politics. But the fear of those who want talks sped up is that the UDC may ultimately accelerate their programme of action and make inroads in areas where the BCP had better bargaining power. A case in point is the fact that the UDC is methodically piercing into the north, where the BCP has an upper hand. Boko addressed a rally in Francistown a fortnight ago to activate the structures.


With all these twists and turns Saleshando is bound to lose friends and members no matter which side of the coin he picks but observers are adamant that his political salvation lies with joining the UDC – but for now the BCP President is still wondering whether it is head or tail. His pro-unity team is telling him joining the UDC is a trial worth experimenting ahead of the 2019 general elections. University of Botswana lecturer Dr Wazha Morapedi is very clear, “the only chance the opposition has against the BCP is when they are one component. They must just campaign under the UDC and forget about their old brands,” he said.


However Saleshando’s indecisiveness has been attributed to his lack of power because the BCP constitution gives powers to the central committee. On the other hand the BCP national executive committee is broadly empowered to run the party on a day to day basis. Saleshando’s fear is that he does not want to be seen to be leaving his members behind. On the other hand “he is well aware that an overwhelming majority of BCP members want cooperation,” said one of the senior BCP members.

SALESHANDO ON BYE-ELECTIONS

“I have been in informal consultations with the Leader of the UDC on ways of formalizing our cooperation during by-elections. To this end, we are in agreement that there is need to urgently enter into an agreement for all future by-elections which will spell out the terms and conditions under which we will assist each other. We anticipate that the agreement will be signed during the month of September 2015. As it is, there is a by-election to be held soon in the Boswelatlou ward of the Lobatse Constituency during the month of October, making it necessary for us to expedite the signing of an agreement that spells out our duties and responsibilities as cooperating partners as well as setting up joint structures required to manage the cooperation.”

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