Friday, October 30, 2020

BNF Central Committee in the dark about protest march

The Central Committee of the main partner in the Umbrella for Democratic Change, the Botswana National Front, never met to discuss a protest march that the opposition collective planned to undertake on Saturday morning.

“We never had a meeting to discuss the protest march,” says a member of the BNF Central Committee. “We just learnt about it from the press.”

Interestingly, the march was announced at a press conference that was held on Wednesday by the UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa, who is also the BNF’s Secretary General. It is no secret that the BNF Central Committee is torn by factionalism, with one faction in the minority led by the president, Duma Boko, who is also the UDC president. The other faction, which is in the majority, is led the vice president, Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela. Oddly, the latter has been unable to use its numerical superiority to oust Boko.

Dibeela has been quoted in the press as saying that Boko doesn’t consult the Central Committee. The BNF’s involvement in the protest without the Central Committee’s blessing will be the most recent evidence in support of such claim. The Committee was also kept in the dark about a deal that saw a South African businessman, Zunaid Moti, lend financial support to the UDC ahead of the 2019 general election. The Botswana Gazette quotes Dibeela as saying that Boko’s outlook on leadership is individualistic and not institutionalist.

There had been uncertainty about whether or not the UDC vice president and Maun West MP, Dumelang Saleshando, will attend the march. He later cleared the issue with an announcement that reads: “It is true that as the UDC we will be having a march in Gaborone. It is not a protest march as many believe, it is meant for purposes of raising awareness and nothing else. I want to confirm that I will be in attendance in full force.”

While Saleshando doesn’t want to use “protest” to describe the march, it is common knowledge that the march is being held to protest the outcome of the 2019 general election. Some UDC candidates, including Boko, claim that the election was rigged and have cases pending at the High Court. The latter has led some to ask why the UDC is protesting the election outcome on the streets while the court process is still underway.

It is highly likely there will be confrontation between the marchers and the police. Mohwasa has announced that, contrary to the norm, the march will be carried out without a police permit issued in terms of the Public Order Act. Boko, who is a lawyer, has in the past (2015) stated that there is need for marchers to ask for permission from the police. At the time, he was representing women associated with the #IShallNotForget movement, who wanted to hold a march to protest the sexual abuse of children. Boko’s interpretation of the Public Order Act is that the role of the police goes no farther than processing a permit and that they are not empowered to decline an application to protest publicly.

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