For a party that believes in democratic change and was awfully quick to express support for Reverend Thuso Tiego when he was arrested, the Umbrella for Democratic Change has been quiet when the same Tiego started making calls for violent undemocratic change.
A “Fire!” church pastor and former Botswana Democratic Party supporter, Tiego was arrested a fortnight ago when he led a march to the Office of the President (OP). Prior to this, he had called on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to resign because he is failing to provide sound leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis. The marchers never reached OP because a contingent of police officers interposed themselves the swarming mass and the executive office. Tiego was arrested on the spot and taken down to Broadhurst Police Station where he was booked. He was later taken to Mmathubudukwane Police Station in the Kgatleng District where he was detained for one night.
Following this arrest, two UDC MPs, Dithapelo Keorapetse of Selebi Phikwe West and Yandani Boko of Mahalapye East, went to the Broadhurst Police Station to intercede for Tiego. The latter is a lawyer. On the same day, the UDC released a statement condemning the arrest and calling for Tiego’s immediate and unconditional release. The party said that Tiego’s rights had been violated and threatened that unless he was released, it would unleash nationwide protest marches and wage a global campaign by reporting the government to diplomatic missions. In line with diplomatic protocols, the missions would have relayed the matter to their capitals.
It is unclear what effect the UDC statement had but Tiego was released the following morning. He later claimed on Facebook that upon being released, he asked the police officers if Masisi was still in office. Tiego has now ramped up his campaign: with Masisi staying put and senior government officials refusing to meet him, he says that his next plan is to “burn.” As used the word is ambiguous because it doesn’t state what he would be burning. He has used the word “fire” in similar context and the ambiguity could have the effect of limiting prosecutorial options for law enforcement authorities.
Prior to his arrest, Tiego had told Duma FM that he hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary to use “force” to get Masisi to step down.
UDC’s involvement in the matter was strong indication that the party had been following Tiego’s campaign with keen interest. With such understanding in mind, Sunday Standard asked the party’s spokesman, Moeti Mohwasa, why the party had been silent amidst Tiego’s call for violent undemocratic change. His response was that the party will issue a press statement at an “appropriate” time.
“For now, we have nothing to say,” Mohwasa said.