The two main affiliates of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) - Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) - will face off at the Bophirima ward by-election scheduled for this Saturday after failing to field a common candidate.

The other UDC member is the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP). The UDC has signed an agreement with two partners, the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) which compels the five parties to field a common candidate in all the by-elections this side of 2024.

To the chagrin of some in the UDC, the fight between the two partners has led to the AP supporting the BCP thereby negating the concept of collaboration among the opposition. “I am disappointed that instead of positioning itself as a neutral arbiter in the fight between the BNF and BCP, the AP is taking sides by supporting the BCP and is campaigning for it in the Bophirima by-election,” lamented UDC chairman, Motlatsi Molapisi.

His view is that as a partner and not a member of the UDC, the AP should not have risked its position in the opposition by participating in an essentially UDC quarrel. “This is a UDC matter. The party risks being isolated by the UDC going forward. After withdrawing from its intention to contest the ward, the AP should have either supported the decision of the UDC as it stands or play the role of a peacemaker,” complained Molapisi, who wondered if the UDC would still want to work with the AP in future.

Asked why he sees nothing wrong with the BPF supporting the UDC, Molapisi argued that the BPF is doing what the UDC, the organisation with which it signed a MoU expects of the BPF and AP as partners. Molapisi does not know where the friendship between the AP leadership and that of the BCP comes from. “The current AP leadership consists in the main, of the same people who caused the split of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which led to the formation of the AP. The two did not see eye to eye,” recalls Molapisi, adding that the motive of the BCP was to then gain the BMD constituencies and wards which it craved.

Like Molapisi, a senior member of the BNF who spoke on condition of anonymity, is shocked by the newfound friendship between the AP and the BCP. “The BMD, most of whose leaders are now the leaders of the AP have always loathed the BCP even accusing it of fuelling the split of the BMD and the birth of the AP,” the BNF activist pointed. Like Molapisi, his position is that by taking sides, the AP has stoked the fires which might also consume it (AP).

“A stranger should either help family members who are fighting, find peace and not side with any of them because the day they come to their senses and reconcile, the stranger will be seen for what he is and be left in the lurch,” he said. The rather anxious commentator advises that, “Whatever the outcome of the by-election, we should draw the necessary lessons from it as UDC. “A BCP win would be most unfortunate because it might mislead some people, especially the BCP leadership into believing that the opposition parties can do without one another. There would be tears.

“A UDC win would not only affirm the need by parties to work together but would also be consistent with the record of the UDC since the first by-election last year when it won most of them. “A win by the BDP would be the result of disunity among us and will be an indictment on the opposition in general,” said the BNF senior member, who suspects that the BCP is going to do everything possible to be expelled from the UDC. “Had it not been for the new law which says a defector should lose the seat, the BCP councillors and MPs would have long resigned. Chances are that the party will do everything to get expelled from the UDC and remain in parliament and council as independent until the next elections,” opined that BNF member. He advised the BCP not to get carried away like it did in 2014 when it emerged from the elections with only three out of a total of 37 parliamentary seats while the UDC won 17 seats.