A bitter rivalry that has hit leadership of Botswana’s main opposition party in Parliament, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is without doubt causing confusion among its followers especially Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) membership.
With the two parties believing they are bigger than each other, The Voice caught up, with Lebang Mpotokwane who helped found UDC back in 2012, to explain exactly what UDC is and how its leadership was elected.
“UDC is a political party and was registered as such in 2012. This was because it was agreed that other models of political cooperation such as Pact were untidy, and was confusing to electorates and further it meant the pact would go for elections without a presidential candidate, but rather each party would present its own presidential candidate which could present leadership problems in case the pact wins elections,” explained Mpotokwane.
Mpotokwane together with Emang Maphanyane were UDC party convenors from 2003 and joined later in 2012 by Cosmos Moenga and Prince Dibeela. Mpotokwane claims him and Maphanyane were none partisan while Moenga and Dibeela are BNF.
The parties then opted for umbrella model which will see parties going for elections under same colour, one party and one presidential candidate, Mpotokwane further explained “and the compromise worked smoothly because UDC performed well in 2014 elections and they were set to ultimately win governance in 2019 had they stayed united.”
Initially four political parties entered negotiations, including BNF, BCP, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP). However in December 2011 negotiations collapsed as parties could not agree on a fair share of constituencies.
However in “In 2012 some of them asked if I would be available to reconvene the negotiations as they felt the talks did not end on a positive note,” added Mpotokwane.
It was at this point that BCP excused itself and requested to be given time to consult its membership, and the other parties granted BCP the request but in the meantime noted that they will continue with the talks and will update BCP once it re-joins them.
“Later BCP informed the negotiating parties that its membership wants them to pull out from the negations so BMD, BNF and BPP continued with the talks, formed UDC and registered it as a political party.”
Mpotokwane added that as they were still trying to find ways of how the leadership will be elected, the then BMD president, now late, Gomolemo Motswaledi said he preferred to be appointed the Secretary general, “Before the meeting started Motswaledi said, “I have something to say “ and he said they met over the weekend in Palapye where he (Motswaledi) said he preferred being the Secretary general and that Motlatsi Molapise (BPP president) said he wanted to be the chairman and that is how Duma Boko, BNF president, became the UDC president.”
However Mpotokwane maintains that this was an interim arrangement because the UDC was to go for an elective congress and most likely after the 2014 general elections.
“The congress was not a priority at the time, the parties needed time to learn how to work together and settle before a congress could be called,” Mpotokwane noted.
With their job of UDC formation done, Mpotokwane says they had to bid the new leadership goodbye but “they insisted that the convenors stay as part of NEC (National Executive Committee) until the party goes to its elective congress. They even put that in UDC constitution.”
However in 2017 when BCP came into the picture, him and Maphanyane were left in the cold, says Mpotokwane.
“We were excluded from the meeting and I heard elsewhere that some BCP membership have been appointed in our place, so that is how we were kicked out” added Mpotokwane.
“We were supposed to remain members of the interim NEC until UDC first congress, but we stepped aside silently, we never complained. We left the day BCP entered the scene,” added Mpotokwane.
With the current rivalry between UDC president Duma Boko and his vice president, Dumelang Saleshando and their follows threatening to cut short the life of UDC, Mpotokwane only had this to say, “We are sad that things have turned this way, it is just unfortunate , it’s not a desirable thing but I can only hope they can overcome the problem. I am watching from the outside so there is nothing I can do or say to advice them because I don’t know the root cause of the current impasse,” further noted the 77- year old whose background include working as private secretary to Botswana’s first President, Sir Seretse Khama and second president Sir Ketumile Masire among other assignments.