Friday, December 4, 2020

BNF said to be divided over People’s Court

The power play in the Botswana National Front (BNF) and within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is said to have become a factor in the People’s Court, a quasi-judicial forum that will “try” the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for alleged rigging of the 2019 general election.

The People’s Court, which has been postponed twice, is taking place ahead of a BNF elective congress that will see incumbent president, Duma Boko, seek re-election against a challenge from the vice president, Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela. As is traditional, each side has a full lobby list and while some on the list deny factional alignment with the presidential candidates, it is no secret that Boko and Dibeela have opposing factions within the party.

Boko, a lawyer who claimed that the BDP and IEC rigged the 2019 general election, is too closely associated with the People’s Court. Weeks after the October 23 election, he featured at a press conference in Johannesburg alongside Paul O’Sullivan, a British-South African forensic examiner who claimed that the election had indeed been rigged. Some of the affidavits that will be used at the People’s Court were sworn before O’Sullivan, who is a licensed commissioner of oaths in South Africa. Boko later represented candidates claiming to have been cheated when they petitioned the BDP and IEC at the High Court.

On the other hand, Dibeela has never associated himself with rigging allegations that Boko so loudly and insistently made. Resultantly, he has never expressed public support for the People’s Court.Sunday Standard learns that while Boko’s faction is for the Court, Dibeela’s is not. The Court, which is a collaborative effort between UDC, Alliance for Progressives and the Botswana Patriotic Front, is being overseen by AP’s Pius Mokgware. A source says that one indication that Dibeela’s faction is not enthusiastic about the Court took the form of Mokgware trying and failing to meet a BNF lawyer aligned to Dibeela’s faction thrice. The source says that there is fear in the Dibeela faction that the Court’s success could enhance Boko’s chances of re-election.

Boko’s re-election is the last thing that some of the MPs who unsuccessfully challenged the election results want to see happen. They went to court on the understanding that he would mobilise funds to pay the legal fees. That didn’t happen and some of them have had their property legally seized by the BDP.The Botswana Congress Party, whose leaders have never been vocal about rigging of the general election, is also said to be apprehensive about the possibility of a successful People’s Court boosting Boko and eliminating the chances of its own leader, Dumelang Saleshando, becoming UDC president.

What is being suggested as a solution to this problem is for Boko to no role at all in the organisation of the People’s Court in order that apprehensive BNF and BCP activists could be more comfortable with the Court going ahead. The Court has itself been postponed twice, the first time because its legal manager had to attend a family emergency and the second because an important witness was quarantined in line with COVID-19 health measures.  

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The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.