The conveners of opposition cooperation negotiations involving the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Labor Party (BLP) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) were left surprised when the talks suddenly collapsed on the back of the decision of AP to leave the negotiations.
“I am not sure whether I can ever come and convene any other political parties after what happened with AP and BCP as well as BLP,” said Lebang Mpotokwane, the man who has been leading efforts to unite opposition parties since 2003.
“The way Ndaba Gaolathe and Dumelang Saleshando persuaded us to lead the talks and then this, is a huge disappointment. I had separately advised them to remain in and fix the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) from inside because it is an established brand and a vehicle that could eventually attain state power, but they insisted that they wanted out. So when AP told us that they were pulling out of the negotiations, we were disappointed.”
Mpotokwane, who together with Emang Maphanyane have since 2003 been unsuccessful in their bid to unite Botswana’s opposition parties and form one formidable party to seriously challenge the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in attaining state power.
Mpotokwane and co, however experienced relative success with the formation of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2012, but they failed to convince BCP to join.
After hitting buffers on numerous occasions, they were optimistic that the talks between AP, BCP and BLP would come to fruition. The parties brought in the brain of the University of Botswana Professor of political science and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences David Sebudubudu to augment the two veterans.
Still, just like in the past the parties left them with eggs on their faces. According to Mpotokwane, the talks were going on smoothly and were very encouraging as they had already made much progress. The intention was to create a united force which would be far better than UDC in terms of governance issues and democratic practices in a coalition.
“Three party names which I cannot share with you had already been submitted to the registrar, a constitution was being drafted and the choice of party colours, etc would follow,” a visibly disappointed Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
The encouraging progress was made easier and smoother by the party representatives at the table. Some of the lessons the conveners learnt from previous negotiations were the problems caused by large teams of negotiators, and the parties had rectified that.
In 2012 for instance, during the Umbrella negotiations, each party brought a team of seven, which was a huge number too many, and some of them were inexperienced.
“But long before going into the recent negotiations, we had told some of the party leaders about our preference for smaller teams consisting of senior party officials, and indeed it happened. Each team had only three members plus one alternate members,” Mpotokwane explained this in a two-hour long interview.
AP at the talks had its Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi, Secretary General Dr. Phenyo Butale and Dr. Margret Nasha; BCP had Vice President Taolo Lucas, former Secretary General Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang and women’s league leader Tshimologo Dingake; while BLP had Vice President Nnana Moseki, Secretary General Kgakgamatso Kebiditswe and Secretary for Administration Mokgweetsi Kgosipula. .
Local political history and literature demonstrates that constituency allocation remains the most stubborn stage of any opposition negotiations. Even in 2023, it jammed everything.
“It was a surprise and a big disappointment to almost everyone. They (parties) were negotiating constituencies on their own because we gave that to them. We did so because as conveners we don’t know which party is strong or weak where,” said the retired diplomat.
The problem started when AP/BCP clashed on seven constituencies with Gaborone Central being the most contentious. The troublesome constituencies were; Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta It was then that the two parties asked the conveners to mediate and they met the parties on different dates. “AP told us that they had a problem with BCP and our advice was that they should engage BCP on the matter and only take it to the negotiating table if they failed to resolve it that way,” he said.
When the conveners met with the BCP team they alerted them about AP’s complaint about them and that they had advised AP to raise the matter with them.
With senior members of the parties in the boardroom, the conveners were convinced that the issue of constituencies would be mutually solved.
“But when we all met to receive an update on the constituency deadlock, AP told us that its Central Committee had decided that the party should leave the negotiations. We were shocked and disappointed because we had thought the deadlock over the seven constituencies could have been resolved especially since the negotiating parties had all promised the public that they would do better than the UDC. But the AP team stood the ground.”
Asked as to what really was the AP problem, Mpotokwane takes long to respond and sips his coffee, a clear testimony that the end is not what he had anticipated. Finally he responds with a heavy sigh, “They told us that the BCP wants to infiltrate them, but they were very cagey with the details.”
BCP on the other hand had its own qualms with AP, more annoying was its leader Gaolathe meeting with UDC President Duma Boko while they were still negotiating.
“BCP was concerned about these meetings but the AP leader told us that he meets the UDC leader time and again, discussing various issues and exchanging ideas, But BCP was ready to continue the negotiations despite the issue,” he said.
As it stands it is not clear what is going to happen next as BCP and BLP did not leave the talks and most interesting is the splinter from AP which calls itself a ‘Botswana o Mosha’ political movement which is not content with the decision of collapsing the talks. The splinter is expected to work with BCP in next year’s elections.
The Botswana DanceSport Association (BODANSA) has been graced with a financial boon of P45,000 courtesy of Turnstar Holdings. This generous endowment is earmarked for the illustrious Botswana International Dance Sport Grand Prix Championships, which are scheduled to animate Gaborone from Friday to Saturday.
At a media engagement held early today, BODANSA’s Marketing Maestro, Tiro Ntwayagae, shared that Turnstar Holdings Limited has bestowed a gift of P45,000 towards the grand spectacle.
“We are thrilled to announce that this backing will enable us to orchestrate a cultural soirée at the Game City Marque locale, a night brimming with cultural fervor set for March 1, 2024, from 6pm to the stroke of midnight.
This enchanting space will also serve as the battleground for the preliminaries of traditional dance ensembles—spanning the rhythmically rich Setapa to the euphoric beats of Sebirwa, the spirited Seperu, the heavenly Hosana, and more—in a competition folded into the Traditional Dance Groups Category. The ensemble that dances into the judges’ hearts will clinch a grand prize of P10,000,” elaborated Ntwayagae.
He further illuminated that the cultural eve would not only celebrate traditional melodies but also the fresh beats of contemporary dance variants including Hip Hop, Sbujwa, Amapiano, among others, in a dazzling display of modern dance mastery.
Moreover, these championships carry the prestigious recognition by the World DanceSport Federation as a qualifying round for the Breakdance category for the Paris 2024 Olympics. “This is a monumental opportunity for athletes to leap towards their Olympic dreams during one of the penultimate qualifiers,” underscored Ntwayagae.
Looking ahead to March 2, 2024, the festivities will propel into the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Arena for the championship’s climactic showdowns encompassing Breakdance, Latin, and Ballroom Dancing.
In Botswana, a beacon of democracy in Africa, the right to participate in the political discourse is a cornerstone of its societal structure. It’s an avenue through which citizens shape the rules and systems that govern their everyday lives. Despite this, recent studies indicate that Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs) are notably absent from political dialogues and face substantial hurdles in exercising their democratic freedoms.
Research within the nation has uncovered that IWDs encounter difficulties in engaging fully with the political process, with a pronounced gap in activities beyond mere voting. The call for environments that are both accessible and welcoming to IWDs is loud, with one participant, who has a physical disability, spotlighting the absence of ramps at voting venues and the dire need for enhanced support to facilitate equitable involvement in the electoral process.
The challenges highlighted by the study participants pinpoint the structural and social obstacles that deter IWDs from participating wholly in democracy. The inaccessibility of voting facilities and the lack of special accommodations for people with disabilities are critical barriers. Those with more significant or intellectual disabilities face even steeper challenges, often feeling marginalized and detached from political engagement.
To surmount these obstacles, there is an urgent appeal for Botswana to stride towards more inclusive and accessible political stages for IWDs. This necessitates a committed effort from both the government and relevant entities to enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of IWDs to partake in the political framework. Enhancing awareness and understanding of the political landscape among IWDs, alongside integrating inclusive practices within political entities and governmental bodies, is crucial.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing an inclusive political environment, Botswana can live up to its democratic ideals, ensuring every citizen, regardless of ability, can have a substantive stake in the country’s political future.
Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.
A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.
The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.
Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.