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Botswana Opposition Aims to Break Ruling Party Dominance

  • Peter Clottey

The chairman of the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) said talks among other opposition parties are seeking to form a coalition aimed at breaking the dominance of the ruling party in the next general elections, which must be held by 2014.

Gomolemo Motswaledi said the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will continue losing its members of parliament to the opposition due to what he described as the party’s arrogance and refusal to embrace true internal democracy within its rank and file.

A former general-secretary of the ruling BDP, Motswaledi left the party after what most people described as an acrimonious clash with President Ian Khama, head of the ruling party.

Botswana President Ian Khama

Botswana President Ian Khama

A majority of the defecting members of the BDP, including Motswaledi, said the ruling party has lost its direction.

“After 48 years of existence of the Botswana Democratic Party and after 44 years of its rule, I think there was just a wind blowing that was necessitating change within the party itself, and the re-evaluation and the re-calculation and the re-cobbling of its future, and its trajectory, as it goes into the inner side of the 21st century. That was in short supply, in terms of the intent by the party itself to redesign itself for the 21st century,” he said.

Botswana’s ruling party has been in government since the country gained independence from former colonial power Britain in 1966.

Analysts say the ruling party could lose its dominance in the legislature after six disgruntled members of the BDP left to join the opposition.

Former members of the ruling party often accuse President Khama of dictatorial tendencies and resentment towards dissenting views.

They contend that President Khama’s “authoritarianism” is undermining Botswana’s democratic efforts. It is a charge supporters of the ruling party deny saying the disaffected members wanted to have their way without going through the proper channels.

Some observers say growing disaffection within the ruling party could plunge the BDP into crisis despite its recent electoral victory. But, ruling BDP chairman Daniel Kwelagobe denied the party is in a crisis.

“There are concerns within the party, [but] I don’t know whether I can classify that as a crisis. But, certainly, there are people who are unhappy with the way the party is being run and, of course, they are entitled to their views,” Kwelagobe said.

Opposition leader Motswaledi said the opposition will be growing in strength after saying that President Khama’s “unilateral and dictatorial” stance is driving staunch members of the ruling party to the opposition.

“The inner energy to do that [transform party] was resisted by the leadership of the party and that actually held on the party and government a state of arrogance where it never listened to its people. And, therefore, the civic liberties were trampled on. The party democracy was not as effervescent as it used to be and people’s sense of self-expression and democratic experience was no longer the same,” Motswaledi said.

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