The history of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has seen many twists and turns since its founding. The key to this might be summed up in the saying “so near and yet so far” for the SVP, as I have said in the recent past. It is evident from what is happening in the SVP at this particular stage that, unless a serious paradigm shift is made, history is repeating itself. Given the many facets of the SVP’s history, these could be looked at from different angles. In this conversation, I look at the story of the political feud between the top leaders of the multi-party formation.
The political quarrel between the president of the SVP lawyer Duma Boko and his deputy, the honorable Dumelang Saleshando, is in the political storm which brings down the multiparty formation. Quarrels of this nature are or have been observed in the political parties in power and in the opposition. We witnessed this in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) between former President Ian Khama and his successor President MEK Masisi before the former left ship to form the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). Since Khama had served his terms in the party and the country, it is widely believed that he wanted to rule from the grave to protect his interests whatever they were. We have also seen it in South Africa between Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa before the former was ousted by the latter; currently in Kenya between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. How to forget Robert Mugabe and ED Mnangagwa. While the causes of these feuds vary, it’s safe to say that the end result is that the winner of the skirmish assumes political power.
As a result of the above, it should therefore be reasonable to think that the feud between Boko and Saleshando consists of acquiring political power to preside over the SVP. As an important actor in the body politic of Botswana, let alone the SVP, Saleshando should have the ambition to lead the SVP first and Botswana second. To do both, he would have to do without Boko first before aiming for the ultimate goal of any opposition politician. And who becomes the President of the Republic. Boko would not fall without a fight because if he failed before to become President of the Republic, his political history will not be complete without the ultimate goal mentioned above. A question should arise as to how and if Saleshando will succeed in dislodging Boko or if the latter will withstand the storm. Context is still needed in terms of assessing the prevailing political dynamics in the respective political parties of Boko and Saleshando as well as the SVP itself. The context should give a fairer idea of how the above question might be answered.
I admit that this is a difficult decision to make because we do not know the level of support the two enjoy within the SVP. There was no competition between them at the SVP to assess their levels of support because they took their positions following a sort of “gentlemen’s agreement”. In their respective parties, it is not clear whether they have reasonable support to influence or influence the SVP towards the intended objective. Boko seems largely in disgrace from some of his comrades who have supported him before, as they argue that he did not lead the Botswana National Front (BNF) in strict compliance with its Constitution, particularly in regarding the convening of meetings of the National Executive Committee. These comrades see him as an autocratic leader who leads the party with an iron fist. As president of the SVP, he is also accused of the same autocratic tendencies. The SVP’s failure to win the last two general elections and the dismal failure of petitions for the 2019 general elections are squarely on Boko’s shoulders. His supporters will give him the credit for having revived the BNF when he became its president. While that may be true, his status and fortune have since declined dramatically. He struggled to win a fairer number of parliamentary seats in the last two general elections. In 2014, BNF candidates won less than ten parliamentary seats while in 2019 the number fell further. The levels of dissenting voices have grown stronger with each passing day.
It’s no different at the SVP with dissenting voices also louder than one might expect. I have already criticized Boko for the way it handled the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) case following the events leading up to and following the unfortunate Bobonong Congress. These events have since led the BMD to quit the SVP and the subsequent founding of the Alliance for Progressives. Had the BMD issue been dealt with proactively politically, the polarization in opposition politics might have been different from what it is, on the understanding that the SVP demands that all opposition parties be under its aegis. Maybe Boko thought that Saleshando’s entry after BMD left would fill the gap left by BMD and therefore the game with his exit. The current feud tells us something different. It’s fair to say that the SVP was a competitive party in these last two elections, even though it lost mostly to its own unforced errors. If these arguments hold up as I really believe, Boko should be on the back burner.
Saleshando’s Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is considered a fairly stable party due to its respect for participatory democracy. This does not mean that there are no dissenting voices. Recent reports suggest that there are differences within the party as to whether party leadership elections should take place or whether some compromise should be reached. It’s still a developing story. If this turns out to be true, it will be hypocrisy of the utmost importance. The PCO cannot call an election for the SVP when it finds a convenient way to avoid it. Boko supporters seem determined to avoid an elective congress for very unconvincing reasons that could further polarize the SVP. Democracy is about providing party members with a platform to elect their leaders and nothing less than that means disaster in the form of instability. It is fair to suggest that some members of the BNF agree with the BCP that such an elective congress be called. As the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Saleshando kept the flame of opposition in the House very strong by pinning the BDP against the wall and exposing its shortcomings as well. It has been reported that some BDP MPs acknowledge the impact of Saleshando, albeit in a low voice, because of the way the SVP has exposed it for what it is through motions and statements, among others. . Some of these BDP MPs would consider banning live parliamentary debates. In the above context, Saleshando seems to have the advantage over Boko to dislodge him from the pedestal. Can he dislodge it? Yes he can.
The question should be how he can do it. I will not forget the point I made above regarding the support or not of Boko and Saleshando, on the one hand in their respective parties and on the other hand in the SVP as a whole. Support in the global SVP is important because with it, the convergence of minds to migrate the SVP from where it becomes easy and possibly achievable. Boko may not be in favor of a SVP elective congress because he may be afraid of losing while Saleshando can claim it because he thinks he could just get there. We will not know conclusively until after an elective congress has been held. An important point to emphasize is that Boko and Saleshando know very well that they each need to bring together the 29 constituencies in order to dislodge the BDP. For this to happen, all opposition parties must endorse and support a single opposition candidate in every constituency and neighborhood. For the moment and barring a miracle, the bridge seems too far away. Other opposition parties that are not under the umbrella do not seem convinced to share the shadow of the umbrella because the SVP under Boko is collapsing like a house of cards. So that Saleshando can dislodge, he must obtain the support of the members of the BNF who believe in a democratized SVP; create favorable conditions to attract AP and BPF; commit to persuading civil society, including trade unions; appeal to the middle class. He will have to demonstrate to these structures that their support will not be in vain.
In the context of the above, it is fair to suggest that the political feud between Boko and Saleshando is nothing out of the ordinary in politics, but is about the political power that politicians desire and cherish. In the process, the larger idea of making the SVP an alternative government to the BDP suffers a lot as it has become its “legacy” in recent times. The SVP cannot survive if it continues to circumvent and trample on the basic principle of democracy which is internal party democracy. But one thing is certain from my point of view: history will judge very severely Boko and Saleshando, gifted and capable individuals in their own right and in their generation, for not having succeeded in making the SVP what it did. should be. Martin Luther King said: “People don’t get along because they’re afraid of each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they fear each other because they haven’t communicated with each other ”, while Robert K. Greenleaf said“ The most serious failure of leadership is the inability to plan. I am ready to be persuaded otherwise, as always. Judge by yourself !
On a sad note, allow me to convey my condolences to the whole family of Rre Johan ‘General’ Modise who was laid to rest on Thursday. He ran his race to the max and can MHSRIP.
We are still not out of the woods. The Covid-19 is still ravaging the world. Let’s all protect us by adhering to all Covid-19 protocols.