The President of Botswana National Front, Duma Boko is currently battling with leading the party whose executive embraces a different model of opposition unity than the Umbrella.

This week he told the story of the BNF.

Q. Your party is divided over the unity model. What exactly is the problem?
No. There is no division in the BNF. You know why it cannot be? It is not my choice. It is not my decision. The resolution of the BNF is that we pursue the Umbrella.

Q. But last week the Executive wrote you a letter demanding that you ditch BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) and start pact negotiations with BCP.
The executive is not the BNF.  It is a group of individuals in as much as the President is an individual. Now if the President was to decide to do something that is contrary to what the BNF has decided, that would not indicate a division on the part of BNF. It would indicate deviance.

Q. I am told, the other reason the executive is so angry is because they believe you are sleeping with the enemy?

Q. Allegedly you are having an affair with a cabinet minister…(Name withheld)
Agh! That is not true. In fact it is defamatory. (Laughs Out Loud) Boko Haram would constitute a better insult than this.

Q. All right then. So what is your comment on allegations that Umbrella II is not really a congress mandate?
That argument is total nonsense. I must put it that way.  It is total nonsense and I would explain to you why. You must put in those words because some of these things when you sugarcoat they mislead people into thinking they are in the right track. This is how these things work. The BNF congress gave us a broad mandate.  “Go and negotiate opposition cooperation with other political parties. It did not prescribe any model, it did not lay down any time frames. You see, this is the point. The congress did not prescribe anything.

What did we do? Amongst ourselves we elected to restrict that mandate and work on a restricted time bound programme. Have we violated the congress resolution? No we haven’t.

Secondly when we set at the negotiating table, all the parties were converging on the umbrella and it wasn’t some decisions taken lightly. Our attorneys examined the legal implications of a pact and it was discarded by both BNF and BCP. They (BCP) themselves determined before we did that the pact was unworkable. The BNF a flexible party it was at the talks, went to everybody else and saw merit in the proposal made by BMD and BPP, which were suggesting either a merger or Umbrella.

We adopted the umbrella model at the Tsabong congress. We then set as the central committee to implement the resolution of both the congress and conference.

Q. But the Umbrella failed last December.
The Umbrella did not fail. There is a distinction that we need to make as the BNF. The Umbrella did not fail but rather we the leadership miserably failed and not in any serious relation regarding the umbrella but in relation to five constituencies. Yes the talks failed but the talks are not the umbrella.

Q. But the talks were the real heart of the umbrella. The heart failed and the umbrella died. Isn’t it the reason there is umbrella II?
No. That is where we differ with a lot of our friends. That is why when we started the second round of talks we did not start from ground zero. The umbrella is the model that we intended to pursue which we had all agreed upon. The real heart of the umbrella is actually those policies that we were able to settle.

Q. There is fear that the BNF is headed for a big split ahead of 2014 general elections. What is your comment?
That is also absolute nonsense. The BNF has taken a decision and if it wants to change, it is entitled and capable. Has it done so? No. What messages am I getting from regions and structures of the party? They are firmly behind the umbrella. People out there want the umbrella.

Q. Then it must be difficult leading BNF amidst all these in-fightings?
There are no infightings and this is what I want to dispel. The disgruntled are a few people who have a habit of making work difficult for the Party leadership. They did it during Moupo’s (Otsweletse) time and BNF wants me to take drastic measures to bring this to an end.

Q. Don’t you think these few can influence other members and we may see BNF forming a pact with BCP?
If they can influence or persuade other members to believe that the pact with the BCP is the only way and the party adopts that decision, I would implement that position whether I like it or not.

Q. Some of the people who supported you when you took over the BNF presidency in 2010 have turned against you. How does that make you feel?
Well, I don’t think they have turned against me. I think they have turned against the party. They have turned against the principles that inform how we should run the party. It is not personal. I don’t think these people hate Duma Boko. I am sure we are friends with these people. They believe that their views, which have not found favour in the party should still be followed despite the fact that the party does not like these views. So it is them against the party and the question of where the president stands. To clear this, the president is with and leading the party.

Q. Are you likely to stand in the next general elections?
At this point, it is a matter that is being debated actively but I would make my request to be excused from running from any constituency for the simple reasons that I would want to be available to coordinate the campaign across the country and reinforce where my skills in representing the party would be most useful. If I am campaigning it would be some kind of distraction because I would have to focus on winning that constituency.

Q. Will you vote this time around?
Hahahaaaaah…I am sure I will. In my life I have been frustrated by the system. When I was in the United States I could not vote because in as much as you people think you can vote when you are outside the country, the logistics and facilities make it difficult. So how could a man vote when he was in Cambridge Massachusetts and there were about how many Batswana at the time? Not more than 5 or 6.

Q. A man could have voted when he was back in Botswana in 2004 and 2009?
Hahaaaah…Yes I was here, but 2009 is when I deliberately decided not to vote due to frustrations from my party. But I still want to debate this issue. For me it is an issue that requires a scholarly debate because people are trivializing it and making it a gossip story.

Q. So do you regret publicly admitting that you have never voted?
Not at all. You see, when you are a leader you have many challenges. I am sure there are many leaders here who have never voted or have not done certain things, but they are dishonest. When you talk to them, they’ll check whether it is something that can be found out or not. If they think it is something that would hurt them politically, they will lie about it. It shows character when you do not lie about something you could have easily lied about. Nobody would have been able to establish that, but I did not lie. I have been candid with the people of this Republic because I wanted to show my integrity and I will live with the consequence. If we were to go about and check, we could discover terrible skeletons in other people’s closets but they lie about them because they don’t think we can ever find out.

Q. You seem to be courting controversy. You offended some people with your use of vulgarity in a piece you wrote in one of the local newspaper last week.
The best answer to give to those who feel offended is that they can take their case to court.

Q. What would be your response to those who call you Boko Haram?
It does not evoke any emotions in me. Actually it is something that I expected. I am surprised that it took too long, because when I saw Boko and Haram I could see it being my nickname, so no surprises there!

Q. Your own executive verbally attacked you in one of the meetings and allegedly said you run the BNF as if it was your law firm. How did you feel?
If in a heated debate and somebody says something nasty to me, I will not begrudge him/her. At no point in my life would you hear me or find me taking disciplinary action against anyone because of that. I understand the intensity and passion of the debate. I do not take any offence and I have not taken any claim or charge of insulting language.

Q. But you refused to shake hands with the accused individuals during the reconciliation meeting that followed in Ramotswa that week.
The issue of shaking hands to me is not symbolic and this is what I explained. The important gesture of a hand-shake expresses something profound. It says now we are good to go. I said this was the beginning of the process at the end of which we will seal it with hugs and hand shakes.

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When the resolution was taken in Tsabong where were the members of the executive who are opposed to umbrella or they did not go to Tsabong? Ke mathata fela.