FRANCISTOWN: Pilots and legal representatives of a South African firm that recently leased two aircraft to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) are reportedly saying that they did not break the law.
According to inside sources, the pilots argue that they did not breach any customs nor immigration regulations that might have led the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) to ground the two planes.
BURS seized the two aircraft, an Agusta 119 and a Beech 190 Wednesday that belong to Waleed Helicopter Services on suspicion that the pilots failed to comply with customs procedures. The UDC hired the chopper and the jet for use in preparation for 2019 general election campaign. To support their claim of not breaking the law, a source asserted: “The pilots maintain that they declared concerning the aircraft, its itinerary, the goods on board, any passenger and crew on board including the destination as specified by law. From the preliminary information we have gathered, it appears as if one pilot declared through a written communication while the other made a verbal declaration.”
The insider is of the view that it is permissible for pilots to make declarations at the airport.
The South African company has engaged attorney, Nkululeko Fuzwayo from Van Niekerk Attorneys, while David Olatotse of Olatotse Solomon Attorneys represents UDC president, Duma Boko.
Meanwhile, UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa has said he did not have details on the matter.
Although details surrounding the seizure of the two aircraft were still sketchy by late yesterday, Fuzwayo and Olatotse were reportedly trying hard to secure their release. The lawyers were said to have held several lengthy meetings with BURS officials.
While BURS officials maintain that they are doing their job, Boko and some UDC activists are convinced that the actions by the revenue authority are nothing but a well calculated move to derail the opposition coalition’s campaigns for the 2019 polls.
Boko told Mmegi on Wednesday that he would go ahead with his countrywide campaigns without using an aircraft. He also said he still did not know why his aircraft were grounded. “The government is paranoid. They’re trying to derail our campaign. They just want to play dirty,” Boko said.
It is not the first time Boko clashed with the taxman. BURS recently impounded his car. However, the Range Rover has not been auctioned yet. Reports say Boko’s associates have promised to clear his tax debt. Mmegi’s efforts to locate the planes yesterday including a visit to the airport were unsuccessful.