After the voluntary departure of Ndaba Gaolathe’s faction from the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and consequently from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko and Sidney Pilane made public statements that revealed their conflicting comprehension of how the UDC ought to move forward. SONNY SERITE takes a look at the two learned colleagues who are most likely headed for a political and legal showdown that will, in the end, reveal who between the two is a real ‘gladiator’.
The UDC leader who is also president of the Botswana National Front (BNF) Duma Boko, describes himself as an intellectual gladiator. He confidently states that he is a lawyer, by training, habits and by practice.
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Sidney Pilane on the other hand uses less flamboyant language to describe himself by his preference as BMD President, at political events and Advocate Pilane at the courts of law.
Those who know both, however, have plenty of descriptions of them. They say they are tactical legal eagles with the tenacity and memories of an elephant. If either start a battle, they say, both will see it to the very end. It is said Pilane eats, breathes and sleeps law books on judicial precedent, while Boko does the same for the philosophy of the law.
They are lawyers. Moreover, they are not just lawyers of note; they are both Advocates; an antiquated but revered title in the legal fraternity that has been eroded by time and usage. The only distinction between an Attorney and Advocate is that instead of dealing and taking instructions directly from clients, Advocates get instructions from other lawyers, while lawyers liaise directly with clients. The benefit of the legal title is also practical, Advocates are not obliged to have trust accounts.
Boko and Pilane have illustrious backgrounds in the legal world. They have fought complicated legal wars in the courts of law and are a marvel to watch and listen to during legal arguments. They are both eloquent in their speech. Well, the only difference is that while Pilane laces his English with a smattering of Setswana phrases, Boko on the other hand revels in his speech filled with poetry and a love for the wisdom of ancient philosophers mixed with Latin. The brilliance of the two is contrasted by starkly different approach to the law.
Immediately after Gaolathe and his group left the BMD to form a breakaway party, Alliance for Progressives, both Boko and Pilane were separately invited to radio stations to give their views on what the departure of Gaolathe meant to the UDC.
Boko’s interview was conducted first and he advised the listenership that as the UDC, they do not recognize Pilane as the UDC vice president due to the manner in which he assumed the BMD presidency and having replaced Gaolathe in the manner in which he did, who was in the position before the BMD went asunder. Boko maintained that Pilane’s leadership was not legitimate as ‘‘ the environment leading up to, and including that which prevailed at Matshekge, was not conducive to the running of a free and fair congress’’.
The next day Pilane went on radio and differed with what Boko had said the previous day. Pilane unequivocally declared himself not only as the vice president but also, the first vice president. By implication Pilane portrayed himself as senior to BCP’s Dumelang Saleshando, who has been regarded as second vice president. Saleshando has since disavowed the titles “first and second vice president” saying as far as he knows, the two UDC vice presidents are of equal standing.
During the radio interview, Pilane was asked what he would do in the event other contracting parties (BNF, BCP and BPP) were to expel his party from the UDC. He was confident in his response; none of the contracting parties has powers to expel the other. ‘‘If they have a problem with BMD as a partner in the UDC, they will be free to leave the UDC,’’ Pilane said, arguing that the exit door is meant for those who do not want to be a part of the UDC and not for those who are not wanted by other parties.
Social media went abuzz with analysis of what the two contradicting positions, from Boko and Pilane, meant with discussions focusing on the likelihood of a looming fallout between the two. Discussions further focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the two advocates.
Many attorneys were adamant that neither of the two legal hawks would submit to the dictates of the other. Social media discussions reflected a public bracing for a political showdown, that will most likely end up being a legal fight. In his submission on radio, Pilane constantly reminded the listeners that he was speaking with authority as he was the architect of the UDC constitution and as such, well-versed in what it says on such matters as who can expel whom from the UDC.
A local attorney posted on social media indirectly warning Boko about the legal animal he was going to face in Pilane should the UDC attempt to kick Pilane’s BMD out of the umbrella. The attorney explained how Pilane spends long hours preparing for legal battles and how tenacious he is when it comes to legal battles. Boko must have seen this warning as he would later post on his Facebook wall what appeared to be a response to the attorney. He wrote, in part, ‘‘…and we carry different giftings and anointings. Others work on perspiration. They work long hours. I work on inspiration. I work much shorter hours. But when the gun smoke clears I know I will still be on my feet, with my guns smoking. That’s the way of the warrior. I am a revolutionary, stump and root! Make no mistake about that. I have always chosen to fight while others chose flight.’’
The UDC Constitution provides for the autonomy of each member party, though it would have occurred to Boko that the BMD issue would at some point become his issue, there can be little doubt that he would have wanted to avoid it. Boko would have hoped to have remained a spectator in the battle between Pilane and Gaolathe. Little did he know that at some point Gaolathe would succumb to the legal wiles of Pilane and place him at Boko’s doorstep. Boko knows Pilane very well. They have met before in court and faced off. He knows what a gallant fighter he is. Pilane too, knows Boko. He knows Boko will never miss the opportunity to prove he is a real gladiator. In each one of them, they have met each other’s match.
Boko will surely rue the day he abided by the UDC constitution and decided that BMD’s internal squabbles could not be remedied by the UDC. Before things got out hand in the BMD, Boko said BMD problems were for BMD to deal with and resolve. He was on that ‘ga ke di tsene’ tip. He didn’t want to ‘enter’ BMD issues but they have eventually followed him and could end up being his worst nightmare, if he snoozes without his gladiator amour on.
Prior to the BMD’s bloody congress in Bobobong, Boko was asked by a Mmegi journalist in an interviewed published on June 23, ‘‘The BMD is embroiled in serious factional wars. What is the UDC doing to help BMD go through this?
Boko responded, ‘‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing.’’
The journalist asked why and Boko held that view, to which he responded that ‘‘Because that’s the way it should be. It is good. In the lead up to the 2014 elections the BNF was embroiled in serious issues in relation to the BNF symbol, and whether the BNF should even be in the UDC or umbrella at all. We handled these issues and we ended up losing our vice president, secretary general, and several members of the executive. We were very clear we did not want any external interference in our internal affairs because we were confident that the membership of the BNF would resolve these issues. So the resilience of the BNF has to be tested time and time again and has faced the harshest and most extreme of tests.’’