Mmegi Online :: Boko takes no prisoners
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Last Updated
Monday 19 August 2019, 18:00 pm.
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Boko takes no prisoners

In this exclusive interview, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana National Front (BNF) leader, Duma Boko discusses the problems bedevilling the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), his relationship with Ndaba Gaolathe, amongst many issues. Staff Writers OARABILE MOSIKARE, THALEFANG CHARLES & TSAONE BASIMANEBOLTHE interrogate him
By Oarabile Mosikare Thalefang Charles Tsaone Basimanebotlhe Fri 15 Sep 2017, 18:00 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Boko takes no prisoners








Mmegi: Retrospectively, what would you have done differently as far as the BMD internal fracas are concerned and why?

Boko: I would have done things exactly as I have now because it is the right way to do things. The UDC as a coalition is based on respect for self-determination of each of the contracting parties. It appreciates that they have own constitution and internal processes that regulate how they operate. The convening of meetings, the adoption of party positions, the election of leaders is a matter that is regulated by the constitution of that particular contracting party. And it is not susceptible of the other parties unless in exercise of its own powers and privileges the particular party invites. And in the absence of such an invitation, then the party is left to deal with its own affairs. This is what happens in this case and things could not have been done differently because that could have been unprocedural and improper.

Mmegi: So you were not invited?

Boko: Of course I was not invited.

Mmegi: Are the BMD internal ructions affecting the UDC?

Boko: Of course it is. When one important member of the coalition is unwell, we all feel the pain. It is an unpleasant experience for all of us. And the hope is that the situation within the BMD will be dealt with and resolved as speedily as possible.

Mmegi: As a leader of the UDC, is it the right way to say, ok I am going to wait for the parties to invite me to resolve their problem, or you should be proactive and realise there is a problem?

Boko: The wisdom of hindsight might mislead a lot of people. When things unfold in the BNF and they always do, they unfolded in the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), they unfolded in the BMD, so that may have unfolded in the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) as well when they went for their elective congresses. We normally have slates, groups competing against each other and these groups compete within the parameters of the constitution of the organisation. And so, when there is any such competition, however serious or fierce or robust that competition may seem to be, you’ve got to respect the fact that the constitution of the organisation regulates how that contest is to pan out.

And so, in the absence of anything that there is a crisis requiring us to intervene out of our volition, we trust that the internal trust that exists in the internal processes will handle. The BNF had this kind of situation. In fact, in the BNF it was more serious that this. In the BNF we lost the vice president, we lost the secretary general, we lost the executive secretary. But the internal processes of the BNF contained that crisis and resolved it. So, we must trust the internal processes of each and every contracting party to resolve and the people within the organisation to resolve it. There was absolutely no basis at all, either politically or legally for us to have intervened. You see, those who were involved, who were within, who could feel the pulse of what was going on inside the BMD, did not see it fit to invite any external intervention.

Mmegi: How do you intend to deal with the damage that has been done?

Boko: Look we resolved the problem. We’ve got to be honest and candid to the nation. The people saw what happened. Democracy is always put to the test. Institutions are put to the test. Constitutions themselves are put to the test. Maybe, the institutions and constitutions sometimes fail the test, and when they do the collective within the organisation must then amend the constitution and improve it. If the institutions themselves were not robust, they need to reconfigure their institutions. In fact, if anybody came to me and asked for advice, I would give them the copy of the BNF constitution and say this is it. This is the right constitution. Anything else is recipe for crisis. It is for them to adopt, but I would say to them, I have experience with this particular document. I have seen it work at the most difficult of times. I think you are better off if you take this document and adopt it.

Mmegi: What about the UDC constitution? How does it resolve a problem like this?

Boko: The UDC constitution is emphatic on the fact that all these parties are autonomous and are run on the basis of their constitutions. That is what it says.

Mmegi: Say, the BMD breaks apart today and Ndaba Gaolathe faction goes with Botswana Federation of Public Private Parastatals Sectors Unions (BOFEPUSU) and form another political movement, don’t you think it will be a free ride for Mokgweetsi Masisi to the State House?

Boko: I think if anybody thinks that way, it is either very simplistic in their approach or terribly misguided in the understanding of the political landscape of this country. You know, in leftist politics, if you read leftist literature, which I have read quite substantively all my entire life, they taught us that there are two things that are critical. Karl Marx, [Vladimir] Lenin, Oliver [Cromwell], Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, all the critical leftist thinkers will tell you. The first is what they call the concrete material condition. There is unemployment, failing economy, depreciating democracy, crumbling education system, there is demographic time-bomb of young people unemployed.

These are the concrete material conditions. These are the situations that now form the foundation of where we are. What do these things do? This is the second fact that we leftist identify. We call it subjective effect. The consciousness. Consciousness depends on critical respects of these things. When a man who works spends 80% of his earnings on rent and transport before they buy food, before they take care of other basic needs, when majority of people are in this kind of situation, you have a crisis. The concrete material conditions make it ripe for change to take place. What is needed is the consciousness of the people. And what shapes that consciousness? These conditions. Now if you tell me Masisi has a free ride, you are telling me Masisi has a solution for these conditions. He is part of what created this problem and people know this.

Mmegi: Do you think people will vote the UDC when there is an all out war within it?

Boko: There is where the press makes the biggest mistake. There is a problem within the BMD which has created certain misapprehensions. Just because one of us is unwell, doesn’t mean all of us are dead. We are alive. There is a swelling or there is a little ailment in the body. But it does not paralyse the system at all. What is

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all out war? Let’s interrogate it there. When the people subject themselves to critical self-examination is that an all out war? That is a healthy state of affairs. We want people to question their leaders.

Mmegi: Gaolathe has been your deputy since 2014. What have you been discussing in all those years?

Boko: There are so many things we discussed. We discussed the formation of the UDC, continuing from where we had left off with Rre [Gomolemo] Motswaledi. He took over. We formulated a manifesto for the UDC, the programme that appealed to the people. We marketed it together. We traversed the breadth and length of this country and the people appreciated the efforts and that is why we see the outcome of 2014 as history made. These are the things we have been discussing ,and how to map out the future for this country that is spectacularly different from what the BDP could ever hope for.

Mmegi: Is Gaolathe still holding his vice president position in the UDC?

Boko: The vice presidency of the UDC is held by the people leading parties. I think you understand the leadership structure of the UDC. There are two vice presidents of the UDC. One is from the BMD and another one from the BCP. BMD is embroiled in a situation now and we are to determine who is who within the BMD. Until that process is resolved, that question has not been answered. The answer to that question will emerge from a resolution of the current situation within the BMD.

Mmegi: How is your relationship with Hon Gaolathe? Is he still the ‘guru’ that you respect?

Boko: As cordial as friendly as it always has been. As comradely and warm as it has always been.

Mmegi: What lessons have you learnt from the BMD fracas, especially with regards to governance and leadership?

Boko: It is an interesting question. One of the lessons is that sometimes leaders are fickle. Sometimes leaders wrongly access challenges that they face. And they deploy the wrong approach to those problems and the problems can escalate because of the misdiagnosis of the problem. I am not mentioning any particular leader. The second is that the structures and institutions of a party need to be strong because they are shock-absorbers of a particular organisation. When democracy is not quite alive, things like that happen. So, for democracy to fully thrive in our parties, our structures must exist and perform their roles.

The other lesson is that members of an organisation must become members of organisations not members of members. No leader has members. It is the organisation that has members. I don’t have members. People come to join the BNF, not coming to me to become my members. My loyalties are to the organisation.

The last thing for me is that as a leader you must play the cards that you have been dealt with in the game. When I went to Francistown, there were lobby lists and I was not associated with any of the lobby lists because when all is said and done, you give me leadership elected by the people. Whoever they elect I will work with them. That is what a leader must do. When the people give these cards to you, play the cards that you were dealt with. Don’t abandon them and look for your own.

Mmegi: Do you think there is now some kind of political activism by the private media?

Boko: There has always been and it is nothing new. There was a time Mmegi published a most welcome front-page banner headline ‘Vote Moupo’. We clapped our hands. We were happy. Was that not political activism? It is something that happens across the world. Sometimes it helps when these loyalties are declared upfront. The problem here is that our people play neutrality, which is a lie. Sometimes it helps to declare upfront. Just say ‘I’m with the BDP’. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It means you like these guys and they appeal to you. Certain key players in the media are aligned. I’m not saying there is something wrong with it. What is wrong is when they pretend that they are not when they are. That is what I find little disingenuous, but they are aligned and entitled to be aligned. There is no doubt in my mind.

Mmegi: There was a Facebook post in which you threatened journalists saying you have information about certain journalists. What are you going to do with the information?

Boko: I don’t threaten but promise. I will release the information at my own convenience. I welcome very much any probing and scrutinisation of leaders. In law, if you impugn or deal with the character of another person, by doing that you open up to your own character assessment. That is the principle I was saying. I was saying we need to probe the press to know these guys are genuine.

Certain things we know about certain individuals within the press lead to one conclusion; these are snipers pursuing somebody’s bidding. That is what we don’t like, especially if such an enquiry is selective. Here is a problem at the BMD that should ordinarily involve an examination of the key players within the BMD. You leave them aside to find a scapegoat elsewhere. There is something wrong with you, from the way you see things or whoever sent you. Why slant your probing into a particular direction. What are you trying to achieve?

Mmegi: You represented BOFEPUSU at the Court of Appeal (CoA) and later you gave Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) a legal opinion. Is this not conflict of interest?

Boko: It is not a conflict of interest. BOFEPUSU was challenging the bringing of an appeal to the CoA by BOPEU and government when the matter, or the issues they sought the appeal in relation to a stay of execution, was pending before Justice [Tshepo] Motswagole. BOPEU then comes to me and says, address for us the proposed amendments by the Government to the Public Service Act. Those amendments were gazetted by government.

The government is bringing a raft of legislations in a manner that will result in killing completely the bargaining council. Two, they say, look at the composition of the bargaining council and advise BOPEU. Does BOPEU have a claim to be a member? I answered in the negative.

I explained the law. I dealt with International Labour Organisation Conventions. I’m a lawyer not a sociologist. I looked at the law and when you look at the law you don’t slant it. You tell it as it is. There is no conflict of interest. I’m not telling you how much I charged. I told you I charge P5,000 per an hour. That is what lawyers do, we charge for our time.

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