ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday delivered a congratulatory message to Botswana’s governing party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), amid political controversy in the neighbouring country about the South African party’s apparent shift in allegiance.Opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) secretary-General Moeti Mohwasa told City Press the relationship between the ANC and the BNF had not been as strong in recent years as it once was, but added “we cannot dictate to the ANC who to link to”.Mantashe has, however, hit back and accused the BNF of being unreasonable. “We have a relationship with both parties. They must not behave like two wives married to one man, who are jealous of each other. "They must just manage the relationship,” he said from Botswana yesterday.He added that while the BNF and the ANC shared struggle links, the BDP had provided the then banned ANC with safe passage after the BDP came into government in 1966 following Botswana’s independence. Mantashe travelled with an ANC delegation to Botswana President Ian Khama’s hometown, Serowe, about 300km north of the capital Gaborone, to address that party’s 55th birthday rally, which also coincided with the 55th anniversary of the ANC’s Lobatse conference. The conference took place in the border town in October 1962. The BNF, with which the ANC also has fraternal ties, also had an event in Lobatse yesterday afternoon, and even though the party had listed an “ANC representative” among its speakers, delegates from the SA Communist Party in Limpopo and the North West ended up representing the alliance.Former ANC member and Robben Island prisoner, Michael Dingake (89), a founding member of the BNF, was also there.Mohwasa claimed the BNF had been organising this weekend’s events since the end of last year, but Mantashe said the ANC only received the BNF’s invitation last week and had met with the BDP about its celebrations in April.Following this meeting, The Southern Times reported BDP secretary-general Botsalo Ntuane as saying the ANC’s visit represented a “huge milestone” in the relationship between the parties, and that they could “feed off each other in terms of lessons” as they were “inseparable”.Mohwasa said the ANC was much closer to the BNF ideologically. “We remain resolute in what brought us closer to the ANC. It was about sharing a common ideology,” he said.The governments of Botswana and South Africa have in recent times held divergent viewpoints on foreign policy issues. Botswana, for instance, recently indicated the Dalai Lama was welcome to visit, while South Africa, in the past refused him a visa out of respect for Beijing’s view of him as a separatist.Botswana’s Khama is also in favour of the International Criminal Court, while South Africa has been advocating withdrawal from what it considers an institution with a bias against Africa.ANC and BNF insiders said a change in relations between the parties had been detectable since Mantashe’s election as secretary-general and Jacob Zuma as party president at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in 2007.In 2011 relations between the ANC and Botswana’s political parties were in the spotlight when then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said the league would set up a command team to help Botswana’s opposition topple Khama in the elections.Mantashe accused Malema of fomenting regime change and undermining the ANC’s policies.A 2016 report from a meeting at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe of secretaries-general of former liberation movements in southern Africa revealed that the parties agreed that they faced a common threat of “regime change”.Both the ANC and the BDP currently face possible challenges in the upcoming elections in the respective neighbouring countries in 2019, with analysts predicting the possibility of both parties losing power.