Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama and leader of the main opposition party Duma Boko, yesterday [Friday] failed to show-up at the inauguration of newly elected President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The duo were expected to grace the event by the virtue of the positions they hold. Former President, Festus Mogae graced the event, receiving a standing ovation from the 5000 crowd during his arrival. Another prominent figure, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who served as Vice President from 2012-2014, also attended the inauguration. He was joined by among others former MPs and former cabinet ministers.
Boko who served as Leader of Opposition from 2014-2019, was nowhere to be seen yesterday. However, other leaders of opposition parties; Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), as well as Advocate Sidney Pilane of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), were in attendance. After an intense campaign, UDC failed to dislodge BDP from power, garnering only 15 seats in the process, two less than in the past general elections. If that is not enough, Boko also lost his parliamentary seat to Anna Mokgethi of the ruling party.
The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) leader, Biggie Butale also snubbed the inauguration. BPF yesterday released a statement indicating reasons behind the decision to snub the inauguration of Botswana 5th president. "The BPF and its Patron, former President Khama will not be attending the event as we believe grand election fraud took place in this election,” said a statement authored by party spokesperson, Justice Motlhabani.
The party which is a splinter of the ruling party, claimed that government used the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to mobilise people to attend as well as the extravagant nature of the event “which is not in line with our known modesty for all past presidential inaugurations.” “We are also against aggressive efforts being put into trying to get people to attend the inauguration never before done , to give the impression of a popular President for the benefit of visitors, hence the use of the BDF to try to draw people and live screening,” Motlhabani.
Khama, who left office at the end of his term in March 2018, has had an acrimonious relationship with his successor soon after leaving office. The fallout, emanating from various factors lead to the formation of BPF, which Khama founded. Prior to elections, Khama was optimistic that the BDP under the leadership of Masisi will succumb to defeat at the hands of UDC/BPF axis. The loose relationship between BPF and UDC has helped the opposition to win a significant number of seats in Central District, with BDP losing Serowe, Bobonong, Mahalapye and Tswapong constituencies for the first time since 1965.
In the Southern part of Botswana however, it was a different story. In unexpected turn of events, BDP eroded UDC support in the traditional Botswana National Front (BNF) strongholds, including winning the entire Gaborone constituencies for the first time since 1979. The BNF poor showing is already causing a rift between the party and its partner, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which saw its fortunes rising considerably. Of the 15 UDC seats, BCP contributed 11 seats, while BNF only brought home four constituencies.
BNF has since rejected the result fraudulent, while BCP has accepted the result. While Boko snubbed the inauguration, his deputy and the leader of BCP, Dumelang Saleshando graced Masisi’s inauguration, and like a score of political figures, he was received to a thundering cheer by the crowd. Elected MPs from the opposition also attended the inauguration, save the three MPs from BPF, who did not show up.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.