Two weeks after the launch of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, its members of Parliament (MPS) are yet to formally notify Parliament on whether they want to be recognized as MPs of the new party or not. Lobatse MP, Nehemiah Modubule, who is the chairperson for Botswana Movement for Democracy and one of the UDC leaders, this week defends his comrades on why the move has not been as quick as expected.
In this interview, he says the MPs need time to write letters to the Speaker of Parliament and would move to UDC sometime during the course of the current Parliament session.
UDC is an umbrella body for three opposition parties, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Q. UDC was launched two weeks ago and the MPs have not declared their intentions to move or to be recognized as its MPs. Your comment?
There are formalities that have to be followed in order for us to be recognized as UDC members of Parliament in the house. According to the standing orders, each one of us has to notify the speaker that he or she has to be recognized as the member of the UDC. We have not done that yet.
Q. What is the reluctance or cause of delay?
No,no, no! There is no reluctance on our part. It’s only that procedurally we have to make sure that we go according to the standing orders. We don’t want to make blunders where by tomorrow we would be told that we did not comply with the standing orders and become the laughing stock. We don’t want to do that. When we declare that we are UDC MPs we would have done that according to the required procedures.
Q. What is the procedure?
The procedure is that each one of us has to write to the Speaker of Parliament and state our intentions to be recognized as a UDC MP. That is what is going to happen. We want to do that on the same day and it would happen in the current session of Parliament.
Q. What happens to the BNF and BMD identities in this case? Does it mean they cease to have MPs in Parliament?
These members are still members of their parties. Nothing changes in as far as membership is concerned. It is only for the purposes of Parliament that we ought to be recognized as such. If it was not because of the standing orders there would be no need for us to write to the Speaker because by virtue that BMD and BNF are UDC members, automatically we should be recognized as UDC MPs.
Q. During the campaigns we would not hear anything about BMD, BPP and BNF. You would only be shouting the UDC slogans?
Elections would strictly be about UDC, no BMD, no BNF and no BPP, we are one.
Q. In case UDC wins elections, what happens to the three political parties?
Our aim is to take over government in 2014. Nothing happens to the parties. They will still be in existence because they are only affiliated to UDC. They would still hold their congresses and run independently.
Q. Wouldn’t they be swallowed by the Umbrella?
How do you get swallowed by the Umbrella! Take for example we have village Development Committees, each ward has one and they fall under one Umbrella committee. So I don’t understand where this concept of swallowing comes from. We have BOFEPUSU, BFTU and others but I have never heard of the umbrella body swallowing its affiliates! At the end of the day UDC is an umbrella for these parties and MPs are members of these various parties.
Q. Have UDC party members completely resolved conflicts over constituencies?
We have resolved those issues. What is left for us now is to go out there to all the 57 constituencies and mobilize more support. It is a question of which candidate would be standing where. It is not a question of which party because like I said we are all going to contest under the Umbrella. We need candidates, which are welcome in their constituencies because we need to win the elections. So far the allocation of constituencies is done. But there is work in progress because there is still a lot of ground to cover. We are facing challenges just like any other party.
Q. Are you going to hold primary elections?
Definitely. In fact we are going to hold primary elections in all the 57constituecies.
Q. But I am told that there is going to be a lot of compromise to avoid internal conflicts ahead of 2014.
Yes, where constituencies agree on a consensus candidate there would be compromise but where they don’t agree, then obviously primary elections would have to be conducted.
Q. Are we likely to see an end to situations whereby the BNF members are recruited or welcomed by BMD and vice versa?
No, it would not stop.
Q. But wouldn’t it cause conflict between the UDC members?
There is no need for conflict. One thing we would like people to understand is that we would hate a member who would leave BNF, BPP or BMD to join BDP or BCP for that matter. If they leave BMD and join BNF or BPP they still belong to the same home.
Q. There is a general feeling that you may lose the next elections now that you have joined a new party other than your old party BNF. What is your comment on that?
BNF is part of BMD and BMD is part of BNF so what is the difference? Again you have to remember that I contested the 2009 elections as an independent candidate. I was not only voted by BNF members, but many other voters as well. There is a perception that Lobatse is a soft constituency. We have to work hard to win that constituency. We cannot take it lightly, otherwise we would be deceiving ourselves. At local government level, BDP has eight Councillors and BNF has four. You can see, it is not going to be easy to win the constituency.
Q. You have been vocal against corruption in the civil service. But it is common knowledge that politicians says one thing when in the podium and do something else when on the ground.
It is unfortunate that Botswana has never experienced a change of power. Usually when people take over power, they would like to correct what they have always seen as a sore. That is the first thing they will do so that people can feel that the new government is in power. There is no way that we can look the other way because we know very well that come another election time, people would compare us with the previous government and cast their vote according their views.The current government is not being compared with any other but that of other countries, whom we don’t know how they achieved what they have achieved.
Q. But I believe the opposition is undoing its chances of winning because of its internal fights, which usually intensifies around election time.
That might be the problem, but what I am saying is that change always brings better things. If we fear change, then we will be stuck with what we have today and corruption would be rampant as is the case today. People now think that the country’s resources are theirs because they have been in power for a very long time.
Q. If UDC is given a day to rule, what will it change first?
I don’t know what the leaders would like to do first but as far as our policies are concerned, I would think that the very first thing to do would be to define separation of powers. It is one of the things we would have to do in order to govern. The local government has to be empowered. Mayors and District Chairpersons have to be directly elected by the people and they should have executive powers. Yes there is going to be a lot of change. In fact we urge people to read our policies and understand what we stand for.
Q. What is UDC’s big promise for 2014?
We are promising a lot because we need regime change and when we win it means a lot of things are going to change. You look at the constitution of the country, it needs to change, you look at our health system, education, the way the land issue is being handled, the agricultural policies and many others, all these are going to change. We cannot claim to be an independent country when we are actually dependent on other countries for our survival.
Q. Don’t you think the Umbrella would have been much stronger when the Botswana Congress Party, which is currently the main opposition in Parliament, was part of it?
It would have been much stronger. There is no doubt about that. But if it does not want to be part of the cooperation we cannot force it.