For years now the relationship between the leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko and his deputy, Dumelang Saleshando has been cold at best, and downright hostile at worst. Besides leading the UDC, the two are presidents of the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) respectively, which parties are affiliates of the UDC alongside the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP).

After a truce between the two UDC leaders, which saw them vacationing together last year, insiders reveal that once again, their relationship has hit a rocky patch and are allegedly not even in talking terms. According to reports, the latest fallout emanates from a disagreement between the BCP and BNF over the allocation of candidates for some of the wards for the several by-elections that have been taking place. In a press statement early this month signed by the party publicity secretary, Dr Mpho Pheko, the BCP accused Boko of having unilaterally imposed Mankie Sekete on the people of Bophirima ward as the candidate for the imminent by election occasioned by the death of the area councilor. Dr Pheko also noted that before the decision was made, the UDC had not met to discuss the Bophirima ward candidacy.

Dr Pheko also noted that the UDC president spurned all efforts to convene a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to discuss the ward. Matters came to a head when the Bophirima ward was allocated to the BNF. The BCP argued without success that the ward belongs to them. The stalemate resulted in each of the two partners not only fielding a candidate but also actively decampaigning each other during their mobilisation activities including public rallies.

The state of affairs has escalated the already belligerent relationship between the two parties and their leaders. A UDC official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it is unfortunate that the two leaders are not in talking terms. “Admittedly, in a coalition, the leaders come from different parties. Although they would have been competing for ages, they need to understand the need to minimise their partisan inclinations in favour of cooperation which naturally calls for constant compromises,” he said. He said that the BNF and BCP need to close the gap between themselves.

“Sadly, if they do not talk, they cannot fulfil their mandate which is to grow the UDC. “Neither can they resolve any issues including those related to by-elections. Nor can they be able to preside over the anticipated talks ahead of the 2024 general elections which include the allocation of wards and constituencies,” said the UDC source. He added that Boko is a poor communicator who neither returns calls nor accepts advice. An attempt to talk to both Saleshando and Boko failed as Saleshando referred this reporter to Boko. Meanwhile, Boko did not pick his phone.