June 4, 2004

Ruling party dismisses opposition pact

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has dismissed the three-party opposition electoral pact as a non-starter. BDP Executive Secretary, Botsalo Ntuane said although they would not drop their guard, the pact between the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Peoples' Party (BPP) and the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) was not a threat to the ruling party. Ntuane's remarks come after the opposition alliance launched their election manifesto. He condemned the pact by saying that its chief architect, the BNF, was a party in perpetual strife. "The BNF also happens to be a regional organisation, a fact that many people tend to overlook. I say it is a regional party because it has a strong presence only in the southern part of Botswana. This is the only part of the country where it is competitive. Therefore the notion that the pact can remove the BDP from power when the principal partner is a regional party is unrealistic," he claimed. Ntuane added that the BPP had a presence in not more than three constituencies. He described BAM as a "briefcase outfit" that could not boast a membership of more than 100 people. He also dismissed the pact manifesto as an incoherent wish list that does not go far enough in explaining how the three parties could better the BDP government in addressing the problems facing Batswana. "The incoherence of the manifesto is not surprising given the conflictual ideological orientations of the three parties," he said.

In reaction, BPP president, Bernard Balikani, said that Ntuane was just spreading propaganda. According to Balikani, their parties were not regional but national organisations. He conceded that they had more support in some parts of the country than in others and this was why they had come up with a pact so that they could contest for elections in areas where they had strong support. According to Balikani the BDP was threatened by the pact and that was why it was concerned about it. "They are beginning to feel the heat. For the first time since independence, the BDP feels threatened. We are not expecting them to say complimentary things about us. We will continue to put more pressure. We are not going to be distracted by the negative things they say about us," he alleged.

BAM president Ephraim Setshwaelo furthermore noted that BNF was a national party because it boasted of support all over the country. "If Ntuane has not realised that the BNF is a national party, he was looking at it with a jaundiced eye," he let know. Moreover Setshwaelo noted that the BPP had strong support in the North East while BAM had a large following in the North West and South East Districts. "But we have never said we are stronger than the BDP. The reason we came together was because we acknowledged that individually we are weaker than the BDP. Individually we could not match the BDP. We are emerging to be a big challenge to the BDP. Our working relationship is a threat to the BDP. If Ntuane does not see that, he is either in a denial stage or politically immature. His seniors are well aware that we are a threat," Setshwaelo concluded. During the launch of their manifesto, the leaders of the pact asserted that they could only unseat the ruling party by working together. (Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone)

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