No nonsense BMD leader
In July 2017, what became known as the ‘bloody Bobonong congress’ gave rise to the Botswana Movement for Democracy’s third President, Sidney Pilane.
An acclaimed lawyer known for his legal brilliance, Pilane has always been highly, some would say ruthlessly, ambitious.
Despite his alleged rejection by the masses, the grey-haired politician defiantly stuck it out and remains a key figure in opposition politics.
Pilane is a difficult man to track down. His hectic schedule means he is out of the country more often than not.
Indeed in an average week, Pilane spends around three days in Botswana and the rest abroad on business.
However, not one to be put off, after months of trying The Voice’s SHARON MATHALA finally secured a meeting with the BMD leader at his plush office in the heart of the CBD.
As ever, Pilane does not mince his words and talks unapologetically about his differences with Duma Boko in this explosive, no-holds-barred interview.
Q. It is almost five years since the tragic death of BMD’s first President, Gomolemo Motswaledi. The UDC, and by extension the BMD, promised Batswana a report into his death. Where is this report Mr. Pilane?
A. I have no idea. Those decision where made at a time when I was no longer a member of the BMD.
So I have no idea if it exists and if does who has it.
Q. Did you not enquire about it when you resumed office?
A. Yes I did ask and I was told it was a ‘UDC thing’.
Q. Shortly after returning to the party, you were elected President at Bobonong. It is no secret the election process was marred by bloodshed. What happened?
A. There was a background to Bobonong and I was not there.
I was told that the executive (committee) were not able to meet and discuss issues.
The NEC was deeply divided, the need for security started not in Bobonong but at those NEC meetings.
Some would apparently come to the NEC meetings, remain outside and intimidate some members of the NEC who they considered to be on the other side.
Bobonong was a little worse partly because it occurred on a larger scale.
Q. Critics claim that many of those who voted for you were in fact not delegates. Most were relatively young?
A. That is not true, those were elected delegates.
Some were youth – we have youth in the BMD!
The BMD is a movement; it is a movement for everyone.
Q. Would you agree that the BMD lost voter confidence after the Bobonong episode?
A. Yes, but as did the BNF in 1998 after Palapye.
When people fight they will lose public confidence.
When we fight we disappoint the public.
‘Ntwakgolo key a molomo’, it was to be expected.
But we have built back the BMD and we continue to rebuild it.
We are much more stable now.
Q. The mother body, The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) then asked the two camps to meet and resolve their issues. Why did this not happen?
A. We did everything we were required to do.
We did not accept the authority of the UDC, they have no authority over us because we are an independent party.
This was our affair. The UDC should not interfere in the affairs of any political party because once you interfere you then influence events and occurrences within political parties and influence who their leadership should be.
But that notwithstanding, and because we built the UDC into what it is, we appreciated their decision to intervene.
We did not give them jurisdiction over us but they could mediate and make recommendations.
We accepted all of their recommendations but in the end it did not work out.
Q. But there is a general belief that the BMD is a problem child within the umbrella, hence the UDC’s mediation.
A. We went even beyond the call of what we were expected.
Remember, we accepted the recommendations of the UDC.
Amongst others, we, at great expense, called another congress.
Also, the BCP does not give its President a constituency we give him one, the constituency we took in exchange from the BCP we gave to the BPP because they were complaining.
We were attending to everyone’s pains and concerns.
We made sure that the BPP was an equal member of the UDC as the BMD and BNF.
We tried to keep the UDC together.
Q. What do you have to say to those who believe the BMD under Ndaba Gaolathe was more attractive than the BMD under your leadership?
A. It’s not for me to judge.
That question is not for me to answer.
Ask the BMD of then and now.
Q. But the UDC President, Duma Boko, in the papers before court also asserts that line of thinking.
A. Who is the Presdient of UDC? Who Boko?
With respect, who takes anything Boko says seriously?
Q. But he is the President of the UDC, your President!
A. Eeh! Sharon please don’t take notice of anything Boko says.
Q. In your court documents, you argue Boko is not the legitimate President of the UDC. Can you expand on this?
A. According to the UDC constitution it should have an elected leader.
He is a caretaker leader and one should act with humility.
Q. But have you tried to put all this across to Boko?
A. I have nothing to do with Boko.
I mean he can do this thing now because we are not there.
He dared not do them when we were there!
Q. Why has the UDC not held an elective congress?
A. We got bogged down with negotiations with the BCP in order for them to become a member of the UDC and that took a long time.
Before that process was completed, conspiracies began and the BCP are the ones who started it.
They started holding side meetings with the BNF and together they conspired to take control of the UDC.
If you look at the history of the BCP, wherever they go they undo, they unravel.
Because they want to take control and take over.
So there has not been time to really hold a proper congress of the UDC and I think it is odd.
Q. How is your relationship with the UDC Vice President and BCP leader, Dumelang Saleshando?
A. Who Dumelang Saleshando? I have no relationship with him.
He is not a part of the UDC; he is not a member of the UDC.
He is part of the opposition but what do we have to discuss with him?
A. They have destroyed the UDC.
They have degraded the UDC from a winning brand into the nothingness that it is now.
Q. Who are ‘they’?
A. The BCP and BNF.
I am not talking about the BPP because they have no role in this.
They are Boko’s lapdog.
They just tag along!
Q. Don’t you think the soured relations between the UDC party members will disadvantage your 2019 general elections campaign?
A. We are not losing anything.
They are the ones losing everything!
Q. Speaking of the court case between BMD and UDC, President Boko has now patented the UDC name. Your reaction?
A. I have seen those documents.
He tried to make the UDC his personal property by registering it as his trademark, Boko.
But he will not succeed.
That will not happen, we will stop it.
But then that is vintage Boko – everything is about him!
Q. How do you feel about the new-found love between the UDC and the former President, Ian Khama?
A. I don’t think he has a relationship with the UDC.
I have spoken to him.
He has told [me] that anyone who is involved in charity and invites him he will come.
That explains his going around.
And he has said to me he has not endorsed anyone.
Q. Do you think the BMD will retain their seats in parliament after the election in October?
A. Oh yes and we will gain more.
Q. How many more?
A. Speak to me in a month and I will have a definite answer for you.
Q. Are you going to parliament?
A. Oh yes and you can tell Boko and Saleshando to try their best to stop me.
Q. Are they trying to stop you?
A. Yes they are trying with everything they’ve got.
But they will not succeed.
I am going to parliament, if only so just they know.
Q. Are you funding the BMD from your pocket?
A. No I don’t think anyone is capable of funding a political party from their pocket.
We all make contributions where we can.
We don’t have wealthy foreign friends to whom we can lie and make promises to whom we cannot keep.
We struggle with the little we can get together on our own.
We will not do that for power, that is not who we are… tragic.
Q. Any last words?
A. We formed the UDC.
We actively participated in the initiative to establish the UDC because of our understanding that Batswana wanted change; they wanted a change of government.
And because no political party was capable of doing so on their own it was essential that we came together in some formation.
So I think it is very sad. They have no principles, they have no honor!
Q. Strong words as ever! Finally, TGIF, what will you be up to this Friday?
A. I will be reading The Voice.