Boko’s bluff dismissed; New party takes shape  

SHARE   |   Monday, 18 September 2017   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane 
DIFFICULT TIMES; Boko [L] and Gaolathe DIFFICULT TIMES; Boko [L] and Gaolathe

The brave face that Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana National Front (BNF) president, Duma Gideon Boko, is putting up in public intercourse defies underlying leadership crisis that threatens to crumble organisations he leads. Clear divisions have emerged and are gaining momentum by the day at both his party and within the coalition, as the facade and illusion of regime change envisaged fades into oblivion. All is blamed on poor leadership by the man who was once the darling of opposition politics, Duma Boko. The result has been the decision by Ndaba Gaolathe camp of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) to form a new party outside the UDC. Boko's conviction that the solution him and his cabal of friends in the leadership of UDC will pronounce on Tuesday, to resolve the impasse at BMD, will settle the matter cannot be further from the truth. The BMD leadership crisis has exposed glaring weaknesses in Boko, and caused irreparable damage to the UDC and by extension the BNF. It is only a matter of days before everything crumbles under his watch, and he is left holding the skeleton of what used to be UDC and a heavily bruised BNF. 

Costly blunders 

One of Boko's fatal mistakes has been alienating public sector trade unions under the BOFEPUSU banner together with their leaders, thus creating enemies with the architects and sponsors of the very coalition he leads. It is common cause that BOFEPUSU did not only facilitate and fund the formation of the UDC, but against criticism from different quarters and government, took a bold decision to campaign alongside the coalition ahead of 2014 general elections. The end result was a 53% popular vote for the opposition, which was only prevented from attaining an outright majority had the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) not sulked and walked out of the coalition under the false believe that they could go it alone. Moreover, the support from the federation extended to individual members of the UDC, among them Boko himself and several other attorneys, suppliers and other businesses who provided services to BOFEPUSU and her four-member trade unions for mouth-watering fees. Boko blundered when after 2014 he failed to choose his friends carefully. Under the pretext of brokering peace and possibly with the lure of the millions splashed about tantalisingly at Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Boko distanced himself from BOFEPUSU. Surprisingly, Boko wined and dined with BOPEU who withdrew from the federation because of its open support for regime change and a united opposition, which UDC was pursuing towards 2014. At a meeting last Tuesday BOFEPUSU felt hard done by the announcement by UDC that they are neutral in the fallout between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU, to an extent that Boko even pronounced on Workers Day that they want to mediate between the warring parties. BOFEPUSU made it clear that they are unhappy with that position because they lobbied for and supported UDC candidates during 2014 general elections only for the coalition to abandon them once in office. 

In one shocking move, Boko represented BOFEPUSU against an application by BOPEU and Government to suspend a decision by Justice Tshepo Motswagole freezing the payment of 3 and 4% salary increment to public officers outside the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe granted the stay, pending an appeal to be heard on October 26. A week after the Gaongalelwe decision, Boko was at BOPEU offices providing legal advice on the same lawsuit he had defended a week earlier. BOPEU paid him P92 000 for the service. Legal experts say if that is not unethical and clear conflict of interest, then nothing can ever be.  Clearly aggrieved by the discovery, BOFEPUSU is on the verge of reporting Boko to the regulator of the legal profession – Law Society of Botswana (LSB) – over his conduct. To add insult to injury, Boko ignored numerous requests for a meeting with BOFEPUSU after 2014 until only last week Tuesday (September 05), three years after joint efforts towards regime change. The meeting was held at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng, a day after UDC met BMD-Pilane at the same venue. In attendance was Duma Boko, Moeti Mohwasa, Justin Hunyepa for BNF and Dumelang Saleshando, Motsei Rapelana, Taolo Lucas, Dennis Alexander for BCP. BOFEPUSU was represented by Johannes Tshukudu, Tobokani Rari, Mogomotsi Motshegwa, Johnson Motshwarakgole and Simon Kgaoganang. 

Those who attended the meeting refused to shed light on the deliberations, safe to confirm that it took place. Information gathered by The Patriot on Sunday shows that from the onset the federation expressed unhappiness over Boko and UDC's conduct, after he ignored numerous attempts secure a meeting. BOFEPUSU feels that they are not treated as an important stakeholder and therefore demanded that UDC should come out clear if they still value the relationship. UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa, said the meeting was to engage trade unions as important stakeholders with whom they worked in 2014. "BOFEPUSU raised issues of mutual interest. We agreed that we should engage more to strengthen the relationship which worked for us in 2014. Another meeting will be held in October," said Mohwasa. Although Mohwasa harbours the false believe that they will meet BOFEPUSU again in October it is abundantly clear that such meeting will never materialise. Sources have revealed that with the information showing that there are two CEC operating at the UDC, BOFEPUSU leaders are developing cold feet and are reluctant to engage the UDC any further demanding that governance and transition issues be resolved first. "We have gathered information that there are two parallel structures at UDC, the NEC that was to be formed on the basis of recommendations from the Transition Committee and another formed by Boko and Saleshando. Hence the reason only Boko and Saleshando teams attended the Tuesday meeting. We do not want to be caught in factional wars and being accused of taking sides in the apparent disagreement over the composition of the CEC. We cannot engage further until they have to sorted their differences and it is clear who is in control at UDC," a source told The Patriot on Sunday.

Two CECs at UDC 

Those that do not see Boko as presidential material suggest that he is only seeking self-actualisation by holding the highest office in the land. Once he achieves that he will not care a hoot what happens next. Other accusations of old, that he is aloof, are now peddled with vigour. To this day the UDC has failed to explain why BNF vice president Reverend Dr Prince Dibeela was not part of the delegation last Tuesday. The explanation proffered that he was running late and would join the meeting later was as unconvincing as it was a lie. The truth is that Rev Dibeela was not aware of the meeting because he was never invited. Even the explanation by Boko on the absence of the BPP, that they have not yet submitted names of representatives in the UDC central committee, was deliberately inaccurate and false. Two days after meeting UDC, BOFEPUSU met conveners of the opposition cooperation talks, Lebang Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane. The duo explained that after negotiations to bring the BCP into the coalition, it was agreed that there shall be a transitional process that will culminate with the inclusion of BCP in the central committee and other structures following the conclusion of the negotiations. To this end, a Transitional Committee was formed headed by Rev Dr Prince Dibeela. The Transition Committee recommended the composition of a new Central Committee with the BCP. The recommendation was to be discussed by the UDC Central Executive Committee and adopted. Attached to the recommendations was a new draft Constitution and a Memorandum of Agreement, which was to be signed by all the new contracting partners, with BCP included. 

After the arrival of the BCP, a new central committee has been set up. Boko, now working closely with Saleshando, disregarded the Transition Committee recommendations and composed a new CEC with new names of representatives from BNF and BCP only. The 'new' CEC of the UDC is thus made up of Duma Boko, Prince Dibeela Moeti Mohwasa and Justin Hunyepa representing BNF while BCP is represented by Dumelang Saleshando, Motsei Rapelana, Taolo Lucas and Dennis Alexander. One of the Umbrella partners Botswana People Party (BPP), whose leader Motlatsi Molapisi is the Chairman of the UDC, has refused to honour invitations to the meetings by the Boko-led group because they want the recommendations of the Transition Committee to be discussed and adopted to pave the way for a new CEC. To this end, the old central committee recently met in the absence of Boko to discuss the Transition Committee recommendations. 

Heated arguments 

All the time UDC leaders could not find time to meet BOFEPUSU, they were flirting with BOPEU, with Boko even promising to broker peace between the two parties. It was therefore not surprising that when BOFEPUSU finally met UDC leaders last week, tension had reached boiling point and a brawl almost ensued. The meeting turned explosive when an unrepentant Boko, allegedly bragged that UDC enjoys support from workers in Botswana and has always had the welfare of the workers at heart and will always put the agenda of the workers upfront, with or without BOFEPUSU. He is alleged to have also claimed to have been personally sponsoring UDC campaigns in 2014. That was the last straw that broke the camel's back.  Veteran trade unionist Johnson Motshwarakgole – the Labour Secretary of BOFEPUSU – is said to have interrupted Boko and demanded clarity on whether the UDC still needed the federation or not. Motshwarakgole demanded an explanation, if Boko was saying he does not care about the relationship between BOFEPUSU and UDC, insisting that by the end of the meeting it should be clear if Boko is saying the UDC does not need BOFEPUSU.  Emotions only calmed down after the intervention of the BCP delegation, when Boko bowed to pressure and mellowed his tone, saying the UDC values the relationship.   

Ever forthright, Motshwarakgole did not beat about the bush leading an onslaught on the conduct of UDC leaders, particularly criticising them for having relationships with BOPEU despite the union distancing itself from opposition politics ahead of 2014. Motshwarakgole singled out Boko and Mohwasa, accusing them of being captured because of their financial dealings with BOPEU subsidiary, Babereki Investments (Pty) Ltd. Furious over Boko's arrogance and lack of remorse Motshwarakgole likened the UDC president to former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He said President Ian Khama's dictatorship tendency pales off in comparison to what Boko will become should he ascend the throne. Amin's full self-bestowed title ultimately became: "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular". Boko conceded having provided legal opinion to BOPEU on their lawsuit challenging the scope of the PSBC, the same matter he represented BOFEPUSU in court on. 

BOFEPUSU supports Ndaba 

The disappointment over the conduct and demeanour of Boko is evident in the faces of BOFEPUSU leaders, some of whom vowed never to work with him going forward. In their estimation Boko overrates his capabilities, his aloofness spiced with arrogance borders on despising and not valuing them as important stakeholders. It is also evident that BOFEPUSU have totally lost confidence in Boko, and are in total support of Ndaba camp and plans to form a new party. BOFEPUSU is not apologetic that they openly support the Ndaba camp. Defending their support for Ndaba, BOFEPUSU is said to have told UDC leaders that the federation is not a structure within the coalition and as an independent entity, they have every right to comment on the developments at BMD. They, however, cautioned UDC to tread carefully as the parent organisation of the BMD. In response, Boko explained that they met the factions of the BMD and will make a decision on the way forward within a week. The decision will be announced on Tuesday (September 19). Boko may have sensed that the ground beneath him is sliding, hence the pomposity and arrogance synonymous with him was evidently not there when he fielded questions from Gabz FM midweek. Not because he is by any measure meek, but possibly because reality has dawned on him that playtime is over, the UDC is no more. Even talk of a united opposition under a different dispensation is gaining momentum. The long wait is over! 

Boko threatens journalists 

In what has been viewed as an attack on the media, Boko took to facebook and wrote: "The much anticipated “exposes” keep coming up thick and fast. The public expected something serious and concrete, supported by cogent evidence. Nothing nearing that has come forth. The hype is now fizzling out, like the damp squib it always was. It is a farcical spectacle where journalism has degenerated into the propagation of the deranged prejudices of a few individuals. Unfortunately for them, where the press expected to find a pliable readership, it met a critical society that demands more than just gossip and unanchored speculations. There's a serious backlash; the “exposes” have redounded against their authors. When one sifts through the media's hunger for the sensational and the superficial, one notices something curious. Certain individuals seem to advocate a sterile utopia where professionals must not charge fees for their services simply because they are opposition leaders, politicians and activists. Jeremy Bentham would call this proposition: nonsense upon stilts! It's a very polite description in my humble view. In ancient Rome, they threw Christians to the lions in the Coliseum for the amusement of the crowd. Today some try to throw the UDC President into the lion's den for their own sadistic pleasures. To their horror and embarrassment, the UDC President is not being devoured. The lions seem to revere him. Someday soon, when these self-righteous banalities of our excitable media die off, we will have ourselves some interesting intellectual debates about the modal and deontic freedoms and capabilities of leaders. Some Socratic engagement would be nice! Not the nonsense spread by our media".