The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Duma Boko has revealed that if his coalition rises to power in the 2019 general election, it retains the option to wash its hands of debt incurred by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) administration against international lenders as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Boko was speaking in opposition to a P 570 million borrowing that government intends to embark on. The debt will take a period of 19.5 years to service. The loan will be sourced from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) which operates under the World Bank, dishing development aid and poverty reduction loans to middle-income developing countries. The loan is intended to be used to address water and sanitation concerns in the country.
Boko also warned international lenders that when the opposition regime rises to power, under international law as a new government it has the leeway to refuse to acknowledge debts incurred by a corrupt pre-existing regime. Boko blasted off from the floor of parliament this Tuesday: “I want you to appreciate this thing for the following legal reasons now. I want whoever you are dealing with to be listening to me now, whether it is the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), whoever that is going to be giving you these loans and whoever you are buying these military equipment from, I am making this statement for them here. Under Public International Law, there is something called tabula rasa; clean slate.”
He further elaborated: “When we take over in 2019, we have a choice whether we can uphold these agreements or we claim that we are a new dispensation, we are starting on a clean slate and we reject them. We can do that.” Boko warned. Boko who is also the president of the Botswana National Front (BNF) further warned the BDP leadership of prosecution and jail time if they assume power. “I am speaking to you now as a lawyer, as a jurist. I say under Public International Law, there is something we call “clausula rebus sic stantibus”. Write it down so that when I try you someday in the courts, and I tell you about clausula rebus sic stantibus, you will know what I am talking about.”
He further highlighted: “What it means is that conditions in 2019 would have changed so drastically because it would be a new regime; corruption free, transparent and open that will say, we reject all the agreements entered into by that corrupt pre-existing regime that we took over from; clausula rebus sic stantibus. I want you to know this. It is a principle of law. It is not politics. This is what is going to get you behind bars someday.”
Francistown West Member of Parliament, Ignatius Moswaane had earlier stated that in 2019, the new government has to will have to be prepared to accept such debt adding that ‘it is normal practice.’ Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi also stated that when the new government steps in will be hamstrung by massive debt incurred by BDP administration characterizing government’s priorities as misplaced.
Furthermore, Boko accused Minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo of the seeking to commit the current generation, future ones as well as the successive leadership of the country, to 19 and half years of debt. “ “You are seeking to commit this Government for whatever remains of it, while important funds are being misapplied towards the purchase of Gripen and other military hardware.” he stated.
Boko further advised that Matambo must indicate to parliament the available financing as well as multiple sources where funding is going to be obtained. Boko also stated: What you are trying to do is to sneak in without providing much needed information so that in that state of lack of information, this Parliament merely endorses what you have to say. Commits the country to debts for years, for decades without the benefit of information and what do you try and do to cover up for that monumental failure?
You say, after you have borrowed, after you have committed yourself, when you are entangled in contractual obligations and you cannot extricate yourselves, now you can come to Parliament and make disclosures. You must make these disclosures before so that we know what we are getting ourselves into, what are the exact terms.”
However, minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo noted, under heavy grilling from parliamentarians that he has not yet singed committed the government or himself in up taking the loan
Matambo clarified: “This is only a proposal at the moment to raise this loan. I have not signed anything with anybody, let alone with the World Bank that we are going to contract this loan. We are here to seek permission to do that. So, I have nothing to extricate myself for, absolutely nothing. I am a free man right now. It is up to you, if you want to reject it, you can reject it and the World Bank would not penalise me for anything because I have not committed this Government to them in that regard,” he said.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.