The Leader of Umbrella Democratic Change has challenged President Ian Khama and his aides to release audio and visual tapes that they say they are proof that he [Duma Boko] had begged Khama to join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
This week Secretary General of the BDP, Mpho Balopi made startling allegations that Boko had twice approached Khama seeking to join the BDP. Balopi told a radio programme that in both instances Khama advised Boko to think long and hard first. In an interview with Sunday Standard, Boko flatly dismissed Balopi’s allegations as fallacious. He said Balopi’s outbursts confirmed the extent of BDP panic and desperation as Election Day draws near. Boko said there is a groundswell of popular discontent building up against the BDP, a situation he said the ruling party leadership is very much awake to.
As a result BDP functionaries are deliberately mixing up public messages as they attempt to confuse the public in the lead up to elections, he added. He says the BDP strategy is from an old playbook that has in the past served the ruling party very well. “This time it will not work,” said Boko. The BDP, he avers is in a state of panic as it sees his motley crew of opposition parties, the Umbrella for Democratic Change take shape. And they are concocting stories to not only deceive the public but also divert attention away from their organizational problems. Recounting on how he ended up in meetings with Khama, Boko said he was at all times invited by Khama himself. Sadique Kebonang, a friend fellow lawyer with close links to the BDP, had always acted as both emissary and interlocutor, relaying messages from the President to Boko as well as delivering Boko by hand to the Office of the President.
“At no point were Isaac Kgosi, [Sam Moyo] Guma and [Thapelo] Olopeng involved.” All the three have claims of close association to the President. And in the past the media has erroneously speculated their involvement in the unfolding saga. Boko is of the view that if any of them was involved then it happened behind the shadows. Kgosi is the head of intelligence security services, Olopeng is President Khama’s sidekick while Guma is a Member of Parliament with commercial interests he cross-shares with Olopeng. “Let us put this whole thing into context.
I was invited through Sadique. President Khama wanted to meet me at his office, which by me is not a party office but a government office,” says Boko. Boko says he gleefully accepted the invitation because it provided him with a long sought opportunity to push issues with Khama on human rights as well as a legal case he was handling concerning over a hundred retired army officers. After exchanging niceties at the meeting, Khama said he had expected Boko to be hostile as that had always been a picture of Boko depicted by his advisors. “When I arrived, Khama told me that he felt I was misplaced in opposition politics. He said I would be better placed to serve in government.
The positions he mentioned include Arttoney General, High Court Judge and Ambassador. He asked me to name any position and he would make sure I got it.” Boko says when it was his turn to talk he told Khama that joining the BDP was not possible. His reasoning was that it would not only affect opposition politics but also the country’s democracy. “I told him that the only way I would serve with him was through a Government of National Unity. And to his credit, he was not averse to the idea.
He said he had heard about it and it sounded a somewhat good idea.” During that meeting mention was also made of the Botswana Congress Party. Boko said on more than one occasion, Khama spoke of his contempt for the BCP, saying the party lacked grassroots appeal. “He said he admired BNF for the loyalty it inspires among its members. He endlessly talked about loyalty of BNF members. He then went back to emphasise to me to think about joining the BDP, including positions I would want in government.” He says a few days down the line Sadique Kebonang was back again on the phone line.
“It was the first time any mention of money was made. Kebonang said President Khama was prepared for any amount I could call. He made references to P40 million up to P70 million. He said that in his conversation with President, an impression had been created that I was shy and somewhat not free to make a price.” It was the first time any direct mention of money was made by anyone of the three involved. Kebonang also made it known to Boko that the President had called yet another meeting.
“When I arrived at the second meeting, Khama was much more robust. While the discussion was this time very brief he was very upfront in his mention of positions available and the money tag. My stance did not change. I told him that only the Government of National Unity would make sense to the Botswana National Front. I never made any demands to Khama, not a position in government and certainly not money.” Boko says Khama left it to him to come up with a figure.
“For money it was to be me who was to decide, but I never came up with a figure.” He says after the second meeting he shared it with some of his Central Committee members that the BDP had taken their recruitment drive to new levels, bluntly adding that he too had now fallen with the ruling party radar. “It had become clear to me that if all the people as a leader I had become a target then everybody was for the taking.
Aubrey Lesaso, the BNF Treasurer was clear that he too had had meetings with some BDP activists. I then went ahead to disclose the offers to BNF followers at the Congress. It pains me now that the BDP is behaving like I was hiding these meetings, that I initiated them and that somehow I asked money from them. It was me who disclosed the whole thing to the public,” said Boko.