Three men in the race to rule Botswana

2014-10-19 06:00

Could a human rights lawyer and activist be the man to boot the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) out of government after nearly 50 years?

Duma Boko certainly hopes and believes so. But whether he’s just a pretender to Ian Khama’s throne or the heir apparent is up to 800 000 Botswanans who go to the polls on Friday.

Khama’s BDP has held power since 1965.

In the country’s most recent national elections in 2009, the main opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) secured just 21% of the vote.

Boko, an attorney, is leading the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), a coalition made up of several opposition parties.

This means he, BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando and Khama are the three men competing for the presidency.

Khama has been president since 2008 and his path to a second term might not be as smooth as that taken by his predecessors.

Former Botswana president Festus Mogae has called Khama a “dictator” and his detractors say democracy has taken a nose dive on Khama’s watch.

Khama said in a recent rally that he was afraid of what could happen if opposition parties had to take the reins of government.

In a YouTube video clip loaded by Botswana newspaper Mmegi, Khama said he was aware that some opposition party members were attending the rally he was addressing.

“They are welcome at a BDP rally, but we understand when they take government they will chase us away and imprison us. I am scared if they could take government tomorrow, they will change and be like those in other countries who, when they take government, they beat, imprison and kill opposition party members,” Khama said in the video clip.

Boko had described Khama as a “dictator” leading a “paranoid” government.

BDP spokesperson Mpho Balopi did not respond to several calls and SMSes asking him for comment.

Taolo Lucas, the spokesperson for the BCP, said there was an “atmosphere of fear and anxiety under” Khama, claiming the president “cares more about security, especially intelligence, more than economic and democratic development”.

Harvard University law graduate Boko said people had “lost confidence in their government”.

“[Khama] has rendered our democracy so weak and [it] can now be described as a monocracy. He is a divisive and incompetent leader who is not up to challenges of the now and future,” said Boko.

One of Boko’s most high-profile supporters is Hollywood actor Rick Yune, who has appeared in the Fast & Furious movie franchise.

Yune attended a UDC gathering earlier this year and was then denied entry into Botswana when he wanted to attend another. Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema was also not allowed into Botswana to attend that rally.

Boko described this as “sabotage” by the Khama-led government.

Botswana citizens living abroad will be able to vote at 25 stations outside the country – including in South Africa, the US, China, the UK and India.

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