Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) President Biggie Butale and Alliance for Progressive (AP) Secretary General (SG) Dr. Phenyo Butale are adamant that should their parties join Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) as opposition unity talks gain momentum, taking State power from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is a much feasible possibility.
According to Biggie Butale, who lost the 2019 national polls to Simon Moabi in Tati West, his belief is anchored on these factors: “It is much realistic because this time around we are recruiting members and this means vote splitting for BDP in its constituencies because we are eating from its base and again, there will not be any vote rigging in 2024. We will have a strong intelligence to gather against any malice from authorities.”
Butale failed to defend the constituency he won in 2014 after managing 1622, with the ultimate winner, Moabi, getting 6236 votes two years ago. But despite being upbeat about opposition cooperation, the founding President of the BPF and his AP counterpart believe that one plus one is not necessarily two in politics.
In fact, they both warn Umbrella Party model supporters that the widely held view that a combination of all opposition parties into UDC will automatically usher a new government could turn out to be a fallacy in politics. “We are positive that surely the opposition combination will bring State power, but that will not be a walk in the park and everyone in the umbrella project will have to work hard towards removing BDP from power,” BPF President explained on Wednesday afternoon.
On the other hand, according to AP SG, this belief that only opposition unity will guarantee them State power is a simplistic and rudimentary view of politics. “Just uniting alone will not give us government we should not leave anything to chance,” he said.
“Every opposition party ought to work very hard and consolidate our bases and recruit members from BDP to weaken them as well as non- aligned Batswana because Batswana want regime change.” Opposition parties’ unity is viewed as panacea to regime change by most. Post 2014 elections a positive air punctuated by fanfare was the order of the day when Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and UDC agreed to work together for 2019 elections.
Still opposition could not jostle BDP from State power despite a school of thought that BCP and Botswana National Front (BNF) combined can take BDP head on-it proved to be fallacious. As of current, BPF is the busiest opposition party, recruiting members across the country in a bid to strengthen and consolidate its support base.
BPF leader is on record saying their recruitment is purposeful and specific. “I want the party to grow and recruit new members especially of a certain calibre. Those that are trustworthy and hardworking,” he told this publication. This recruitment policy is viewed to be aimed at assisting the party to ensure that the members can sweat enough to push the BDP out.
The party has already snatched former assistant minister of Basic Education, Moiseraela Master Goya, with legion of other former cabinet ministers anticipated to join. The recruitment according to observers will also back BPF to bargain for a much better stake in opposition unity discussions expected to be closed this year.
UDC is currently negotiating with both BPF and AP to join the coalition in efforts to wrestle Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) out of power in 2024. The negotiations are still at infant stage but they are expected to be closed within a short period of time.
The negotiations will be the fourth one since the initial ones in 2011, another in 2012 and the last ones in 2017. Before then there were others in 2003 and 2005/06 which never took off. With the opposition cooperation negotiations billed to be put to bed this year which will also decide on constituency allocation to each party should they agree, BPF intends to field their candidates in all 57 constituency if possible.
“We intend to contest in the 57 constituencies in 2024, that is our intention but remember we are still talking with our partners and the allocations will be finalized there,” said Biggie Butale. Last weekend, Goya, who was MP for Palapye before losing to the incumbent, Onneetse Ramogapi in 2019, has declared his intention to contest the area again in 2024, and as far as Butale is concerned “there is nothing wrong with that declaration.”
Ramogapi won the 2019 parliamentary elections after garnering 5,582 votes followed by Goya of the BDP with 5,252 votes. BPF represented by Dr. Kolaatamo Malefho got 1,806 votes whilst 1,306 people voted Gape Motswaledi of the Alliance for Progressives. Independent candidate Boniface Mankanku got only 52 votes.
UDC is currently negotiating with both BPF and AP to join the coalition in efforts to wrestle Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) out of power in 2024. The negotiations are still at infant stage but they are expected to be closed later this year or next year.
The negotiations will be the fourth one since the initial ones in 2011, another in 2012 and the last ones in 2017. Before then there were others in 2003 and 2005/06 which never took off. The trio’s negotiations have already agreed on working together on five impending by-elections. With AP proposing unity in the by-elections and BPF suggesting unity in both by-elections and general elections, sources say.
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.