Friday, July 10, 2020

Why bad things happen to good organizations and what is to be done: the case of Duma Boko’s toxic leadership style

The recent story about UDC rented witnesses who are now demanding payment for the false testimony that they were supposed to give at the High Court, in the so- called elections petitions  (Sunday Standard of xxxxx) should be an eye opener to the trials and tribulations of the UDC and indeed the BNF under the toxic leadership style of Duma Boko.  Contrary to what the newspaper headline suggests, and the popular misconceptions, the UDC and indeed the BNF has nothing to do with those witnesses or indeed the court cases. It was all was the work of Duma Boko, the BNF narcissist leader, together with his handlers in South Africa, a former president and a small group of henchmen, such as Moeti Mohwasa and Justin Humyepa.

It was an operation to save Duma Boko’s political career, after the embarrassing and humiliating electoral defeat in the last national elections. If anybody is in doubt, let them produce the dates of either the UDC NEC and or the BNF Central Committee meetings where resolutions to challenge the outcomes of the 2019 elections were taken. The truth is that such resolutions simply do not exist. The truth of the matter is that these witnesses for rent, and the so-called UDC election petitions cases,  were  part of Duma Boko’s grand plan to rebrand and reposition himself for the next BNF Congress and UDC leadership contest, on the basis of a false narrative that the UDC was cheated and that he  deserves  a second chance. It is common knowledge that the last UDC NEC meeting was more than a year ago, and long before the last 2019 elections. So all the recent public statements by Moeti Mohwasa supposedly on behalf of the UDC are really just his own.

The tragedy is that whilst this is going on, the UDC NEC leadership in general, and Dumelang Saleshando in particular, are sheepishly looking on, as the UDC Project is rapidly disintegrating under the narcissistic and toxic leadership of Duma Boko, with the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) hoping to benefit from the BNF disintegration and the implosion of the UDC, which they joined reluctantly, and become Botswana’s  main opposition party, of which they are in effect.The disintegration of the BNF, however, commenced about   ten years ago at the Mochudi Congress,   when Duma Boko was elected the president of the organization. Up to this point, Duma Boko, was not known in the organization, but had forged BNF membership  card number 31161 which belonged to a deceased comrade.  Before this  Congress, Duma Boko was the Publicity Secretary of a renegade organization calling itself National Democratic Front, which he cofounded with one Dick Bayford. Duma Boko who singularly lacks any BNF credentials, and is ignorant of its character and traditions, has now driven the once mighty organization with popular support across the country to the ground, with his toxic leadership style.

The concept of toxic leadership is the brainchild of an American academic, Jean Lipman-Blumen. The habits of toxic a leader  are similar to those of a narcissist. They include  dysfunctional personal characteristics such as arrogance, enormous ego, insatiable ambition, avarice, and amorality. These dysfunctional personal characteristics drive toxic and poisonous behavior that negatively affects organizations   led by such leaders. Toxic leaders misdiagnose problems, stifle constructive criticism, manipulate followers through deliberate untruths, subvert processes and structures, feed followers with false narratives about themselves,  use  scapegoats when there are problems, sets followers against one another, and present themselves as saviors whose removal would lead to total collapse and anarchy. This is why bad things happen to good organizations.  To some of us, it was a blessing in disguise that the UDC did not win the 2019 elections. We would be witnessing in this country today something similar what Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil   are doing to their countries. Boko’s worst arrogance was recently put on full display in the BNF’s Puo Phaa online edition of 31st May  2020,  entitled ‘What  is left  of  Left in these trying times and wither BNF’  whereby he launched a vicious attack on the BNF leftists, labeling them dogmatists and extremists, simply because of their adherence to the  Social Democratic Program, an official party program adopted at the Molepolole Congress in 1995 which  Boko wants to replace with his so-called ‘Social Innovationism’, whatever that means.

As usual in this article, Boko  presented himself as the savoir of the BNF going forward, even though he is  a membership thief with no experience in the BNF political trenches. And by the way, Puo Phaa is now under the gatekeeping of one Justin Hunyepa, a well-known Boko henchman and stooge, who masquerades as a veteran trade unionist.Since ascending to the leadership of the BNF through the backdoor, Boko has failed to provide direction to the then largest opposition party in the country. This has not only extended the BDP’s rule, but truth be told, left the country and its people with no alternative, as the BNF was  the only party with a clear policy and ideological difference with the  BDP.  The BDP continues to serve first and foremost the interests of the rich at the expense of the vast majority of our people, especially the poor and the youth.  While the rich have amassed wealth over the years, the vast majority of our people have very little to show. This oppressed and despised majority are now condemned to endure economic hardships for many years to come, thanks to Duma Boko, who has weakened the only political vehicle that could give them much needed economic and political empowerment.

Because of his enormous ego and the ‘I know it all’ mentality, Duma Boko is a tragic example of why bad things happen to good organizations. He has always misdiagnosed problems, resulting in catastrophic consequences for the organization.  A few examples will suffice;

a While everyone knows the BNF has always relied on a strategic partnership with the working class, Boko has had the temerity to antagonize trade union leaders, whom the BDP then welcomed warmly to consolidate its power.

b When Batswana were still  recovering  from Ian Khama’s  authoritarian rule,  Boko decided to  forge an opportunistic and unholy alliance with him, behind the back of the BNF and UDC leadership, and presented   Ian Khama as ‘born again’ man of the people.

c When Batswana mourned that their country has been sold to foreigners by the BDP, Boko, again behind the back of the BNF CC and UDC NEC, brought in a foreign thug named Zuni Moti, effectively saying the opposition cannot an alternative to the BDP. He once arrogantly told the BNF and UDC leadership that the 2019 elections were his personal project. Duma Boko, why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

d During the turmoil at the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Boko sided with the Sidney Pilane minority faction, leading not only to the spilt of the BMD, but also to the weakening of the UDC project.

e Duma Boko has also unashamedly lied and claimed to have cobbled together, the UDC, when the truth is that this was the working class resistance project influenced by Ian Khama’s authoritarian leadership, especially during the 2011 workers’ strike.

Duma Boko’s narrative that the election was rigged is nothing but scapegoating typical of toxic leaders when they want to avoid being held accountable for their catastrophic blunders.  Because of his arrogance, Boko never recognizes his errors of judgement. As such, he can’t correct those errors. He is bound to make the same mistakes over and over. In other words, he has no capacity to learn. Instead of learning, and owning up to his blunders, he finds scapegoats. Thus, after the general election in which the UDC performed dismally, while he lost his parliamentary seat, Duma Boko, after discussions with his handlers, and to the complete marginalization of the UDC NEC and BNF CC, orchestrated a bogus election petition alleging that the BDP has rigged elections. Why would the BDP have to rig to win his constituency when he gave it to them on a silver platter with his lackluster performance as an MP? 

The only motion that Boko ever tabled in parliament as leader of opposition, and after years of dismal performance, was the motion of no confidence in President Masisi. Why table a motion of no confidence in President Masisi when he had been in power for only 100 days,  when for four years Boko had  accused Khama of bad governance and corruption, but never tabled a motion of no confidence in  him? Interestingly this motion was never discussed at the UDC parliamentary caucus, but was urgently tabled after Boko’s discussion with Ian Khama. In conclusion, the question for us is what is to be done?  The power to emancipate  the BNF is in the hands of its members across the country. They must vehemently reject Duma Boko’s arrogance and ‘savior’ attitude because he can’t be bigger than the BNF, and he will never be. But we are aware that Boko  and his clique  of  Fear Fokol thugs, are already working on cheating and rigging the forthcoming BNF  elections, and again  we ask, Duma Boko,  why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  

 But the BNF followers must not allow themselves to be abused anymore. They must demand clear answers and accountability, not fashion shows, poetry, irrelevant Latin expressions, incoherent lectures from Duma Boko.  Indeed, as a result of Duma Boko’s toxic style of leadership, many of the  BNF’s experienced cadres have out of frustration decided to hang their gloves, and are now focusing instead on their families, career and small businesses. Many more, like Klaas Motshidisi, Kopano Lekoma, Pretty Molefe, Simon Tladi, etc, have died of  broken hearts because of Boko’s total betrayal of their struggles. If Duma Boko is not defeated at the next elective congress,  the BNF will become a laughing stock of the BDP, the BCP and the entire southern African region.

The reelection of Duma Boko, the narcissist with a stolen membership card no 31161, will be the end of the BNF’s  historical vanguard role. More importantly, the BDP’s misrule will be extended by many years, if not decades, thanks to Duma Boko’s toxic leadership style. This article, and the ones that will follow it, are intended as a wakeup call to the BNF members, the UDC and the nation at large. Don’t say you have not been warned.

 *The author is a political activist and a mental health counselor. This is not his real name.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.