MAUN: Reports that officials from Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) temporarily seized manifesto documents of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at the Maun International Airport almost overshadowed the party’s hyped manifesto launch over the weekend.
On Friday, a day before the launch, there were widespread reports that BURS had seized an aircraft and manifesto documents for the UDC.
The reason for the seizure was that the UDC as well as the pilot had not satisfied some customs regulations. The situation created a lot of uncertainty as to whether the launch will go on as planned or not.
The uncertainty became more apparent when it emerged on Friday night that key party members from Maun led by North West region chairperson, Simon Nthite were locked in negotiations with BURS in a bid to secure the release of the party properties.
The reports further suggested that BURS officials told the pilot who delivered the manifesto on Friday early evening that in order for the aircraft to stay on the local shores for three days in Maun, he had to pay over P2.4 million. This was calculated as 12% of the value of the aircraft.
However, it is still unclear as to why BURS wanted the pilot to pay the amount upfront, but he was reportedly told that he would get back the money when he leaves the country (after his three day).
Sources have indicated that BURS noted that paying the 12% value of the aircraft was part of the new customs regulations. But the pilot reportedly returned to South Africa on the same night after failing to convince revenue officials to allow him to stay in the country until Sunday without paying the P2.4 million.
As for the delay in releasing of the documents, BURS officials reportedly said that the invoice for the manifesto consignment could have arrived in the country before the actual consignment from South Africa.
“They said that the early arrival of the invoice would have enabled them to timely avail a clearing agent for us.
The agent was availed to us after two hours and we managed to clear the manifesto. We paid the agent around P900 and paid VAT (value added tax) slightly above P5, 000. We felt that
He added, “They told us that they gave Dick Bayford a checklist of what was required for the manifesto to be cleared. We requested that they give us the checklist in order to ascertain if what they told us was true, but they refused. We then concluded that this might have been a delaying tactic orchestrated by the ruling party.”
Similarly, the UDC has recently accused the government of frustrating its (the coalition) general election campaigns. Nthite also said that BURS officials did not give a satisfactory answer when asked why they demanded that the pilot pay P2.4 million.
“They said that it was for a permit which they did not specify. The pilot was not aware that he had to pay such an amount and he had no choice but to go back to South Africa.”
Meanwhile in his main address, UDC president Duma Boko over the weekend maintained that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was sabotaging his party’s preparations for the 2019 general elections. Launching the UDC manifesto, Boko alluded to the alleged temporarily seizure of the aircraft that the party had chartered to deliver the manifesto at Maun International Airport.
But he did not elaborate as to which government organisation temporarily held the aircraft. He also did not state why the aircraft was held.
“We fought for four hours at the airport with government officials because they had seized our manifesto,” Boko said, adding that the actions by the government would not deter his party from mounting strong campaigns for the 2019 general elections.
There was no readily available comment from BURS in relation to the incident. Less than a month ago at Francistown International Airport, BURS grounded two aircraft that were hired by the UDC for its election campaigns.
The tax agency said that the move was taken after the South African company that had leased the two aircraft to the UDC had failed to satisfy certain customs regulations.