Duma Boko promises to build not burn bridges
His campaign had been marred by controversies. He was accused of having forged his membership card and that he was a member of another opposition party. On the eve of the election congress, which was held in Mochudi over the President’s holidays, he was dragged before the High Court to answer something close to fraud charges by fellow comrades in their bid to bar him from ascending to the high office.
Just as the BNF members prepared to cast their votes on Monday, a special High Court hearing in Francistown sat to hear an urgent application to stop him from standing for the party presidency. He won it, as he did on Friday.
In short, it was a bitter battle to the end. Is Boko then, in a vengeful mood?
“I don’t suffer fools and I don’t hold grudges against anyone because my anger does not last long which therefore leaves no room for vengeance,” said the maverick youthful leader, who is best known for his human rights activism.
In a wide-range interview with The Voice on Wednesday, Boko revealed that his clear leadership qualities, his ability to clearly articulate issues, his fight for the rights of people and maybe his “outward appearance” worked in his favour despite “the dirty campaign” that was waged against him.
Q. Why did you decide to contest for the BNF presidency?
When an organization suffers great loss of credibility, when there is general demoralization of the organization and when political fortunes are on decline every loyal member must take responsibility for the state of affairs and that is exactly what I did. Sometime late last year I decided that I could not fold my hands and be idle while things were falling apart so I then considered that I should take over the party leadership. I then communicated my intentions to some members of the party and they encouraged me to ahead.
Q. Your presidential candidature was marred with controversy to the extent of your opponents seeking court intervention though they lost but still appealing. Why do you think it went that far?
There are some people in the party who think or who thought they are entitled to leadership and thus when I made my intentions of standing for presidency clear, they panicked and knew that with my kind of background they stood no chance of winning. They then started to look for issues that were not there to try and discredit me but unfortunately it did not work.
Q. But wasn’t there an element of truth in their allegations, and what was your involvement with NDF since it was alleged that you were one of it’s founding members?
I joined BNF in 1984 when I was 14 and has been a member since then, actually I have life membership. I know that the mentality that is out there is that when one is an active member of any party he must be heard making noise within the party and putting on party colours but that is not the case. I have for all my life been fighting for the rights of people including those at grassroots level which is what the BNF stands for.
What I also find interesting about the question of my membership is that in 2007 BNF asked me to be an additional member of the Central Committee but I refused due to work commitment. They later asked me to be Gaborone Central parliamentary candidate and I again declined. Now the very same people who were asking me to stand turned around and said I am not a member of BNF. Very funny indeed!
As for my involvement with NDF, I am friends, very close friends with the founding members of the party and I am not going to apologise for that.
Q. But what about the issue of your membership card, as there were allegations that you forged the card that you availed?
(Laughs) People are entitled to their opinions, if that’s what they thought or still think I have no problem with that that. The good thing is that the courts vindicated me and so did members of the BNF.
And again I must point out this case of membership cards has made me realize that our data system is very poor. If our records had been kept properly we wouldn’t have had all these problems. Now that I am the president these are some of the issue that I will make sure that they are resolved, we need to devolve power to lower levels.
Still on my membership card let me also mention that it’s not only once that I have lost my card and who knows I might lose it again so really it mustn’t be an issue.
Q. Now that you are the President of the party, what have you got to say to your opponents?
I believe they are now my former opponents, as I have already said I don’t hold grudges. It was their right to do what they did though I knew right from the beginning that it was a waste of time and money. But anyway I was impressed with the energy and zeal that they had in this matter and I hope they will now put that energy into good use for the betterment of the party.
Q. Your message to members of BNF and Batswana at large.
I want to assure party members that I will deliver to them a party with credibility, a party they can trust and be proud of and party that will work together with other opposition parties to ensure that 2014 marks the end of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) era.