Lekgowe, Mogapi & Kgosi
Duma Boko’s candle is currently burning so furiously bright whilst flapping about in the wind that it looks like it is only a matter of time before it extinguishes. To see him carry this momentum into 2024 is unlikely. And Dumelang Saleshando knows that.
Somewhere along the democracy yield curve, there was a span of time that Botswana managed to break even with the expectations of a maturing democracy. The robust, passionate debates and continuous engagement of citizens in our political discourse is a beauty to marvel at. The emergence of a mean-looking and united opposition together with their “dark money” played a major role.
The emergence of Duma Boko at the Botswana National Front and his assault on the chaos inside the organisation then brought about peace, however narrow, that enabled it to call for opposition cooperation talks without any signs of schizophrenia that haemorrhaged the soul of the organisation for long. The UDC, a formation born out of the talks, was buoyed by the weakened BDP under the leadership of then president Ian Khama.
But somewhere Duma Boko was working his global network of deep pocketed friends, mobilising the much-needed cash machine that was to enable the UDC to ignite from cold inertia. The result was a seemingly well-oiled UDC machinery that almost uprooted the BDP from power in the 2014 elections (if only opposition votes had not been split between them and the BCP). Fast-forward to the 2019 elections, now hand-in-hand with the BCP, all the money that brought charm to the UDC and endeared many to it and helped tighten Boko’s grip was now scrutinized by the weary and anxious public that worried about the strings that may come attached to it. That may have cost the UDC the 2019 elections and Boko a parliamentary seat. However, one must await the outcome of the election petition.
The long drawn out saga that is the 2019 elections continues into the New Year with daily court appearances of petitioners, witnesses and defendants. It is almost fatiguing. But not to Duma Boko, who is as articulate as ever and determined to persevere, come hell or high water. Is he a puppet, dangling from the strings held by the mysterious moneyed men behind his gallant campaign who were likely promised a piece of the pie upon his ascension to the presidency? Or does he truly believe that they as the opposition were swindled? Or is he just unravelling and undoing the great union that was the UDC that he had worked so hard to make formidable? Considering the great electoral fraud that he alleges, with almost everything at stake and a Twitter handle proclaiming him as an incoming president, Boko’s faith in the country’s justice system and not anarchism or civil disobedience, is a great testament to him and his allies.
But the UDC is currently sending mixed messages to their supporters and the public at large because amidst the petitions, a lethargic protest march on Friday was held and this seemed a bit misplaced. Was it all done to keep relevant and jolt us back from our habit of forgetfulness as a nation? Meanwhile, the political veteran that is Dumelang Saleshando finds himself in this quagmire, and out of loyalty he is sticking with his president and riding the petition turbulence, hoping for a favourable outcome.
Whether he believes there will be one only he knows. He may just be waiting to pick up the pieces once the implosion is complete and take the reigns of the party. Afterall, he won his seat. What has he got to lose? He knows he is now better revered than Duma Boko and has been a part of Botswana politics for a while to know how they work. Duma’s candle is currently burning so furiously bright whilst flapping about in the wind that it looks like only a matter of time before it extinguishes. To see him carry this momentum into 2024 is unlikely, and in politics momentum is everything. And Saleshando knows that.
But Duma Boko deserves credit. There is no denying that he played a huge role in building the robust opposition machine that is the UDC and possibly sacrificed a lot in the process. He will be remembered as one of the opposition builders who took the opposition to a new level of politics. It may be that he has done his part and needs to let others take over the leadership of the project.