Thursday, July 18, 2024

From hero to zero – Boko fighting for political life

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana National Front (BNF) President Duma Boko is fighting for his political life with his former trusted allies turning their hatchets against him. The erstwhile darling of Botswana’s opposition politics was allegedly avoiding calls from angry comrades last week. Boko watched from his self-imposed purdah as his political capital crumbled under the weight of the costly fallout of the failed elections mass petitions he led against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) earlier this year. Indications are that his biggest undoing was his motor mouth, which wrote checks his body could not cash.  The 14 petitioners who rallied behind Boko allegedly on the promise that UDC would pick their legal bills are now playing a game of hide-and-seek with the deputy sheriff. The messenger of court is hot on their trail after the UDC refused to settle the P565, 000 legal bill arising from the failed attempt to challenge a High Court ruling dismissing their petitions.

To add an insult to an injury, the 14 angry petitioners are also expected to pick Boko’s legal bill after the deputy sheriff in charge of executing the Court of Appeal (CoA) writ of execution failed to attach the UDC leader’s property. Attempts to attach Boko’s property allegedly hit a snag as all the moveable property found in his possession including motor vehicles do not officially belong to him. The two vehicles currently under his possession, a BMW X5 and a Lexus GS350, belong to two companies Stelix Investments (PTY) LTD and Black Fuel (PTY) LTD respectively none of which is associated with the UDC President. The 14 petitioners who are being pursued by the deputy sheriff are Victor Phologolo, Ramaotwana Nelson Ramaotwana, Mpho Mmannana Pheko, …Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Moagi Molebatsi, Haskins Nkaigwa, Micus Chimbombi, Sam Digwa, and Mohammed Khan, all hitherto known Boko’s ardent supporters except for Pheko who is from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The worm is turning.

Speaking to Sunday Standard last week some of the petitioners expressed anger at Boko’s “false promises” spanning from pre-October 2019 General Elections campaigns up to the election petitions in December the same year.“We were told to seek constituency launch services like marquees and artists on credit and the bill would be settled by the party at a later stage but as we speak, we are left with all those debts.” It was on account of these broken campaign promises that some of the petitioners were reluctant to commit resources to the petitions when they were told the party would foot the legal bill. “We are currently in talks with the UDC leadership requesting for a meeting where we want to discuss issues relating to the legal costs. We are also working to ensure Boko does not retain his BNF presidency because we don’t believe he can be trusted to lead the party,” one of the petitioners said. The UDC Leadership have however distanced themselves from claims by the petitioners that the party promised to foot the legal bill.

“Note that the launching of cases at the High Court started off as an initiative of petitioners. As UDC, we fully understand, appreciate and applaud the decision they took. They sacrificed for this country. We as a nation should support them as they battle legal costs. However, the UDC as an entity has never promised to pay anyone’s legal bill. There is no party resolution to that effect. What we resolved, just last week, is that we will urge our members and the nation at large to assist,” UDC Spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa told Sunday Standard. Responding to questions on the trust fund set up to raise funds for the legal costs Mohwasa said the contributions come in two ways; Those sent directly to the Bayford and Associates Trust Account, and those through the short message service (SMS).“The money contributed through SMSs will at the end of this month (October) be reconciled and an invoice raised so that the service provider can pay into the Bayford and Associates Trust Account. The UDC Treasurer will share that information after reconciliation of contributions and it shall be done in the first week of November,” Mohwasa said.

He said the UDC National Executive Committee only resolved to assist with fund raising when they met earlier this month. “This was part of our NEC resolutions. The AP/ BPF and UDC at their recent negotiations meeting also resolved to do likewise.” Besides the P565,000 Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers Bogopa, Manewe, Tobedza & Co law firm legal bill they are currently facing, the UDC petitioners are also expected to be served with another CoA bill from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) lawyers Minchin & Kelly. They will also have to face High Court costs from the two law firms which are expected to run into millions. Boko climbed his way up to capture the top position in Botswana’s opposition politics relying on sheer intelligence, ambition and canny networking.

Yet the ground has shifted considerably since he lost his parliamentary seat and position as Official Leader of Opposition. The UDC president who is at his weakest will not find a little comfort in the UDC petitioners and parliamentary candidates who rode on his coattails and banked on his largesse to contest the 2019 general elections and challenge the outcome in court. The UDC petitioners and parliamentary candidates who ran up huge election campaign and legal bills allegedly on Boko’s promise that the party will pick the tab have been left in the lurch and a growing number of them are calling for his removal from the party leadership. Boko’s defense was last week coming from an unlikely ally. BNF veteran Dr Cosmos Moenga launched a scathing attack against Boko’s detractors this week in a letter to the Sunday Standard editor. (Read the full letter in next week’s edition). Moenga revealed that a number of BNF leaders are campaigning against a third lobby list for the party elective congress because they are trying to marshal a united front against Boko. 

“I am shocked by some people who seem to be surprised that three is a third lobby list and come out with many excuses why there is no need for a third lobby list. Top on the list of excuses is that there will be split vote. People say there is a need to unite against a common enemy and that enemy Boko. In my view this school of thought is destructive to our movement. No one should be regarded as an enemy within the movement. Boko is not only a member of the BNF but also its President. To label him an enemy will lead to factions in the party. People might disagree with his style of leadership but make no mistakes he has supporters in the movement. The BNF Constitutions does not have time limit for presidency. The president of BNF can stand for elections as long as he wants”

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