THE WAR WITHIN
The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) continues to be a party at war with itself. Amidst a looming court case that is set to pit the UDC President against his deputy for what the latter deems unlawful suspension, the coalition leadership this week went further to strip their Vice President Dumelang Saleshando of the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament, and replaced him with Dithapelo Koorapetse.
It is a move that has since attracted mixed reactions among the coalition activists, with members of Botswana Congress Party (BCP), whose President is Saleshando, feeling that the UDC President Duma Boko is merely revealing his vindictive nature by ensuring his deputy is punished for differing with him. Others however feel that Saleshando deserves what has come his way as he is seen to have been defying the party leadership by refusing to apologise for repeatedly saying the UDC was undemocratic.
This past Tuesday, Koorapetse, an executive committee member of the BCP was officially announced by Acting Speaker of Parliament Pono Moatlhodi as the new Leader of Opposition after the UDC had so sought when Parliament resumed on Monday. Saleshando has since reacted to the move, saying he had always known of the plot to remove him as the LOO, and that he had only been waiting to see the plan unfold.
Said Saleshando this week: "Developments around Leader of Opposition in Parliament have not come as a surprise. We all saw this coming and many people long told me of the meetings that commenced over a year ago (some held in South Africa) to hatch a plan for the current developments. Like Julius Caesar when the Soothsayer warned him to beware the Ides of March, I may have appeared not to have heeded the warnings, but it was important to allow the plan to unfold."
Reports within the UDC coalition made of three parties being Saleshando's BCP, Boko's Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana People's Party (BPP) led y Motlatsi Molapisi, say that for the longest time Boko, the coalition's leader, has never felt comfortable around his Vice President from the BCP, even more amplified in recent months by social media posts that several times warned the BCP leader about a plan hatching and being discussed from outside the country to alienate him.
He has always been vocal about the UDC not being a democratic entity, something that did not sit well with the rest of the UDC leadership. He was eventually suspended alongside his party's Secretary General, Goretetse Kekgonegile, as suspension they are both to serve for three months. It is for this reason that this week he was ousted as the LOO, as he has been barred from participating in UDC activities.
While Boko has maintined that he was following the laws that govern the coalition, other observers have since accused him of using divide and rule tactics to bring disharmony within the BCP, with the ultimate intention of weakening the party and keeping Saleshando at bay. However, feeling hard done by the suspension from the UDC, the BCP president and his secretary general decided to take their suspension from the UDC to the High Court.
The date of the case, which will be presided over by Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa at the Maun High Court, has yet to be decided. In their Affidavit, the BCP officials want the Court to declare their suspension unlawful, wrongful and accordingly invalid because, Saleshando and Kekgonegile are themselves not members of the UDC.
The application instead argues that it is the BCP which is a UDC member. Further, the Applicants (Saleshando and Kekgonegile) want the Court to declare the 1st Respondent (Duma Boko) to have no disciplinary authority over delegates of a “Group Member.”
The BCP is a group member of the UDC with Saleshando and Kekgonegile as delegates to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the UDC, says the Affidavit.
Further, the BCP officials want the Court to rule that, “The suspension of the Applicants (Saleshando Kekgonegile) from 2nd Respondent (UDC) be hereby declared unprocedural, unfair and accordingly null and void.”
The BCP leaders further want their suspensions from the UDC "to be declared unreasonable, improper and tainted with mala fides.”
Further, the 1st and 2nd Respondents, Boko and UDC in that order, must pay the costs of the Application. Saleshando argues in his Affidavit that, "if the UDC was to exercise disciplinary powers over a member of a “Group Member’’ such conduct would be over-reaching and an encroachment on the autonomy of the ‘’Group Member.’’
Saleshando goes on to point out that, disciplinary powers are reserved for ‘’Group Members’’ over their members.
“The UDC cannot exercise the powers it does not have over us and in this regard, the 1st Respondent (Boko) acted ultra vires and contrary to the UDC constitution empowering him to act therefore, the Respondent’s (Boko) decision is a nullity in law,“ the applicants state.
The Affidavit further says that Boko acted unprocedurally and unfairly to exercise such powers without affording the parties affected an opportunity to make representations and be heard prior to the prejudicial decision being taken against them. Nor was there natural justice according to the plaintiffs.
“The UDC is required to issue notice in writing to us as to the reasons for suspension and give us an opportunity to present our case. I verily aver that this was not done,” said the BCP president, adding that Boko acted unprocedurally and the decision-making process was grossly unfair.
The Affidavit also reminisces on the days before the suspension.
“In the days prior to our suspension, there had been traces of uneasy feeling of animosity between the UDC partners. The Applicants (Saleshando and Kekgonegile) in their representative capacity on behalf of the BCP and the 1st Respondent (Boko), who happens to be president of the UDC are not sufficiently aligned on certain values and principles,” the Affidavit says, adding that, the BCP current position on the constitution, internal democracy and governance is unacceptable and has been openly vocal in that regard.
“The Applicants, Saleshando and Kekgonegile, as a consequence, part of a larger stratagem by the 1st Respondent to crack down on dissenting views effectively silencing the BCP within the UDC and amounts to an overreach in so far as it is intended to force BCP’s hand as to whom must be its representatives within the UDC,’’ says the Affidavit.