The dust has finally settled and to the victors goes the spoils as those who were dealt the raw end of the battle lick their wounds. For many, you accept the loss and move on with your life. For those who think of themselves as the best thing after sliced bread they delve into a world of unfounded conspiracy theories to explain their losses. They lack the grace to say ‘a party or person who the people better than I has prevailed’. In the end that’s the nature of politics. Botswana has emerged from the elections with the BDP retaining power while there was a slight shift in base. With the UDC asserting its domination in the central district with 10 constituencies and the BDP making a clean sweep in the Capital city and South-East district.
They question that now comes to mind is “what is next?” For the UDC, I would like to argue, that it is time to introspect and reconfigure. While the UDC may have won the rural vote, which has been elusive for a while, they also lost the urban vote where they were strong over the years- even before the UDC came into being the opposition had a strong holding in urban areas. The UDC needs to conduct an audit to figure out why the lost the urban.
Second, the UDC needs to figure out why they lost the popular vote considering that in the 2014 elections the combined popular vote with the BCP was more than 50%. One wold have expected a better showing with their now combined forces. A six percentage points swing in the popular vote for the UDC is all but disappointing to say the least. We can sit and hypothesise as to what may have happened as outsiders but the UDC is the only one that can answer that question only if they allow themselves to be honest with themselves.
The most crucial part of the introspection is to assess its leadership and see if it served the UDC well and whether it will continue to serve the party well. My view is that the UDC leadership especially the President was the Achilles heel to the UDC’s success in the elections. Duma Boko is by all accounts a good jurist but he has demonstrated that he lacks the requisite tools to lead a political movement. I say this at the risk of being lynched by his mob of supporters but I would be disingenuous if I didn’t say it.
There are tens of cringe worthy moments that have come to characterise the UDC campaign trail all having to do the Duma Boko. The pinnacle of which was his opening statement at the Presidential debates. I personally gagged as he stood with an arrogant scowl across his face as his misguided sense of superiority permeated through the television screen. For the rest of the debate he stood with his arms crossed further amplifying the air of arrogance. The line between self-confidence and arrogance is thin and blurry and unfortunately for him he found himself deeply on the wrong side of the equation. His lack of humility was evident for all to see which was rather off-putting. As a person who cast my vote for him in 2014, I would say his showing has been rather anti-climactic.
Duma Boko’s disregard and contempt for the law left many in awe as he battled his situation with the taxman was one incident that left many, myself included, in utter shock and disbelief. A leader should have a reverence for state institutions especially when he knew, as was the case, that he was in the wrong. The arrogance and braggadocios nature in which he dealt with the seizure of his assets made me question his ability to lead and importantly to respect state apparatus. If he felt hard done, he could have sought legal intervention. For me he should have known better. Was the timing inconvenient for him when the taxman came? Absolutely. That does not however excuse his conduct.
The worst of his display was his indecisiveness and inability to mediate during the BMD throw down and failure to contain the BMD concerns, valid or not, over the membership of the BCP into the UDC. These two incidents are just a few in a myriad of indecisiveness by Boko and the party leadership. My prescription to the UDC is quite simple in this case, Duma Boko should go. The UDC deserves better than him.
Finally, perhaps more important than what I initially termed most important, the UDC and its constituent parties need to reconsider the current structure of the UDC. Central to the BMD/BCP saga was in the way the UDC was set up. Conflicting interest between the constituent political parties will always threaten the stability of the UDC as was evidenced by the BMD/BCP saga. How sustainable would the constant horse trading and conflict management be? Of course, politics is about horse trading but when it threatens the existence of a body then it ought to be relooked at. This is said with the appreciation of the historical conflicts between the BCP and the BNF. My proposition is rather simple and equally complicated; the UDC should be transformed into a fully-fledged party than a vehicle for cooperation. The UDC leadership should come up with a plan towards the dissolution of constituent parties and a build single unified party. I am not naïve to ignore the possibility of splits occurring in the future. But leadership is daring to do what may seem impossible and unattainable. Leadership is to dare to do. I call on the leaders of the UDC constituent parties to rise to the occasion.