Many political observers viewed his ambition to lead the then troubled and fiery opposition party, Botswana National Front (BNF) as too risky and predicted his downfall but Duma Boko stood his ground and is the last man laughing.
In an interview with The Patriot on Sunday, the BNF President who is also leader of opposition in parliament said that BNF detractors never scared him. “I knew what I was putting myself into and was fully prepared to take them head on and was fully loaded with political firepower. I understood BNF problems and knew that they were mostly caused by people from my profession and as such it was just a walk in park for me,” said the maverick politician who is also the president of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
His journey in assuming the party leadership was not a smooth sailing one, as he was earlier disqualified from contesting the elections as the party felt he was new in the party. Later the party somersaulted and allowed him to contest against Olebile Gaborone and his fierce critic Gabriel Kanjabanga.
Just before he could settle down as party president, some party members including some members of the Youth League challenged his legitimacy in the courts of law. According to Boko who is a lawyer by profession with Masters in Law (LLM) from Harvard University he was never bothered by the court case as he knew that he was going to win it. “I told journalists that am at peace with myself and not really bothered by the numerous court cases because that is my field of expertise,” said the Gaborone Bonnington North Member of Parliament.
To him, his main priority was to restore confidence in BNF which its members were faced with hopelessness and despair, and said he understood some of the frustrations directed towards him.
He said that he faced massive challenges in ensuring that he returns the BNF to its former glory but contend that he was more than equipped to ensure he achieves his mission. Asked if he has ever thought of resigning as BNF leader as it seems he was spending more time in court defending his membership legitimacy or his position as party president, the outspoken human rights lawyer revealed that resignation has never been part of his vocabulary epmhasising that he knew what he was putting himself through.
It was during his tenure as BNF president that some members of his central committee resigned en masse and some of their MPs defected including Olebile Gaborone and Mephato Reatile to BDP, Isaac Mabiletsa and Kentse Rammidi to Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The Mahalapye born legislator noted that problems that faced BNF were just temporary storms which couldn’t derail him.
When the 2014 general elections results were announced and showed that UDC, an alliance between the BNF, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has performed exceptionally well, Boko said that he was very humbled. UDC garnered 17 parliamentary seats making it the main opposition party with popular vote of 30.1% which was a historical feat and Boko said that this was the best time of his life.
There have been concerns about UDC MPs with some people feel that they have been sold a dummy as they are extremely too quiet, Boko differed saying that they are just okay. Regarding their failure to respond to the State of the Nation Address, the former University of Botswana lecturer said that the response which was based on the economic interventions that he gave was solid and formidable. “That is why even the BDP backbench failed to respond to the budget speech because there was nothing they could say,” he said.
Only five members of parliament responded to the 2015/16 budget speech which was delivered by Minister of Finance and Development Kenneth Mathambo last month,a first in the history of Botswana parliament.
He said that the time given to respond is very short and suggests that members of parliament should be given a day to peruse through the budget speech before they respond to it. Boko, who is known for his works as human rights lawyer especially representing Basarwa in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) marathon case, said that there are some parliamentary standing orders that need some amendments.
Addressing a press conference in Gaborone on Tuesday, the UDC President revealed that investigations regarding the death of his former running mate Gomolemo Motswaledi are still ongoing. He said that they need cooperation from countries with satellite imaging in order for them to know what happened before and after the accident. Motswaledi died in a car accident near Pitshane on the 30th of July last year in what UDC members suspect a foul play.
Boko said that investigations into the circumstances that led to the death of Motswaledi are very complex and will take time. There have been calls by some UDC members that the three parties that make the tripartite alliance should dismantle and form one party. Asked if they will ever dismantle the three parties in the alliance and have UDC alone, Boko was non-committal noting that it is up to the members of different parties to decide.
“UDC is work in progress and all the three parties are streams feeding on the main party and some can join UDC without going through the three parties,” said Boko.