Boko himself started making claims about attempts on his own life 14 years ago

07 Jul 2019

The man who trashed reportage about plans to assassinate President Mokgweetsi Masisi has himself a track record of personally making similar claims that he wants the public to take seriously.

The first time Duma Boko, who is the president of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, claimed that there was a plot to kill him was 14 years ago. With Boko himself as the source, newspapers carried a story alleging that he had received a threatening call phone call at a time that he was driving on the A1 Highway between Gaborone and Mahalapye, his home village. The year 2005 was when Festus Mogae was president and Botsalo Ntuane was a Specially-elected Member of Parliament. After Boko had gone public with his claims, Ntuane wrote, in a letter to the editor of Monitor that he was “inclined to believe the urban legend that he [Boko] himself placed the phone call threatening his own life in further quest for public recognition.” He added: “Much as the legend may be off-taste, it is difficult not to believe it given the pathological craving for recognition exhibited by this character.”

At the time, Boko was a lecturer at the University of Botswana and stepped on the toes of many through a column that he wrote for the same newspaper. One of his occasional targets was then Vice President Ian Khama whose name he habitually wrote as “Kgama.” While the latter may have been purposefully designed to show offensive fearlessness, “Khama” is actually a misspelling of the name by the white missionaries who didn’t speak Setswana and didn’t have the “kg” sound in their own mother tongue. “Kgama” is really how the name should have been spelled in the first place.

After Otsweletse Moupo stepped down as President of the Botswana National Front, Boko controversially stepped in his shoes. Prior to this assignment and while he has vehemently denied it, Boko had been the Secretary for International Affairs in the New Democratic Front, a breakaway party formed by BNF founder, Dr. Kenneth Koma. Boko successfully fought off challenge to his leadership and ahead of the 2014 general election, the BNF presidency launched gave him a similar position in UDC. At this time, Khama had long taken over the reins of power from Khama and a new term (“extra-judicial killing”) had been introduced to public discourse.

The second time that allegations were made about a plot to kill Boko was in April 2014 and came from a close associate of his, Phillip Moshoke, whom the media at times refer to as Boko’s bodyguard. Picking up on rumours of such plot, Moshoke stated in words that would be reported on a police charge sheet: “I personally send a warning that should anything happen to Boko, there will be a blood bath among the families of responsible people. I will personally ensure that not only do they suffer consequences, but even their entire families.” Moshoke also threatened to “wipe out the Serowe royal family from the world map.” The royal family in question is that of the Khamas. Former head of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi reported the matter to the police who laid charges against Moshoke. President Khama would be forced to address such rumours when he launched the candidacy of the Botswana Democratic Party candidate for Tati East parliamentary candidate, Moyo Guma. Khama used such opportunity to assure the nation that he had no plans to use DIS to assassinate Boko. Midway through the criminal case, charges against Moshoke were withdrawn.

In July of the same year, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who was president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy tragically died in a road accident that some to this day, believe was stage-managed. A week before the general election, Boko told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian that his life was in danger because his name was on a hit list containing Motswaledi’s: In an interview with theM&G in Johannesburg, Boko, a Harvard-trained lawyer, alleged that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) was behind the attempts. “Indications are that there is a hit list. We have established that my name was second. Gomolemo Motswaledi was third.” He did not say who topped the list.

Five years later, in an election year and when Khama has been replaced by Mokgweetsi Masisi, there are allegations of a plot to assassinate the latter. Thus far, Sunday Standard has reported three instances when attempts on the president’s life were made. The latest was the lead story in a late June edition which was headlined “Masisi Hides Away from Assassins.” Shortly thereafter, Boko appeared alongside UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando, at a press conference to trash such claims. Both said that the claims were bogus and that Masisi was merely playing for sympathy votes in an election year. 

The curious thing is that while Boko wanted people to believe him when he made the same allegations, he is trying to convince them to not believe a similar claim about Masisi. According to Mail & Guardian: Boko denied that the allegation of a hit list was a publicity stunt ahead of the elections. 

“We are not exaggerating. These things are documented. My house has been broken into by these people. People have related their ordeals at the hands of the DIS. They are not exaggerations, but some have actually been understated. Everyone in Botswana feels unsafe from the actions of the DIS. We live in fear. Even the phones of ordinary citizens are tapped.  

“With the judiciary it’s even worse. They [the DIS] are snooping on everyone, even government ministers. I’ve received death threats before from this government. We have received very credible reports from within the intelligence community from those who do not agree with the status quo.”

One can make a very strong case that neither claim can be casually dismissed. At the time that Boko claimed that there were attempts on his life, some people had actually died at the hands of DIS agents who seemingly had a licence to kill. Khama’s first Vice President, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe, a man who was never lost for words, found himself tongue-tied when Botswana Congress Party Vice President, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, accused security services of “slaughtering people” during a live Btv debate ahead of the 2009 general election.

Unlike all Botswana presidents before him, Masisi hasn’t enjoyed a honeymoon period since he took over power last year. Unlike all Botswana presidents before him, he inherited a booby-trapped government. Unlike all other presidents before him, he has not been able to move into State House, the official presidential residence, because it is reportedly heavily rigged with all manner of electronic surveillance gadgetry. There are people who are hellbent on preserving a situation that Boko feared might rob him of his life and there is nothing that suggests the culprits are no longer bloodthirsty.

However, there are differences between the two cases. Firstly, while Boko personally made the allegations himself, Masisi never did. By the same evidentiary standard that Advocate Boko uses in court, there is no evidence that Masisi ever claimed that there was a plot to assassinate him. There has only been reportage that some assume is informed by DIS sources. In all legal traditions however, evidence and assumption are not born equal. Secondly, Boko has made such claims many more times than similar claims were made with regard to Masisi. Thirdly, Boko’s history of making such claims has a much longer time horizon, stretching back to 2005. Lastly, Boko once made his claims at a time that Botswana was still peaceful and was the only person making such claims.