The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) could find itself without a parliamentary and council candidate in the Lephephe-Letlhakeng constituency, after the Molepolole Magistrates Court ruled in favor of a court application for the party’s parliamentary candidate and one council candidate to be struck off the voters roll.
Last week, Senior Magistrate Bhekimtilo Sibanda of Molepolole Magistrate Court ruled in favor of Gordon Mothoosele Mokgwathi, a parliamentary candidate for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), in a case in which he was suing a BCP parliamentary and council candidate in the Lephephe-Letlhakeng constituency for ‘registering through trafficking’. Mokgwathi had filed affidavits in which he objected and prayed for the Magistrate Court in Molepolole to, ‘cancel and/or strike off’ some people from the voters rolls at Serinane Primary School polling station. Only three of the 11 respondents in Mokgwathi’s civil case opposed his application that their names should be removed from the respective voting stations at which they appeared.
Mokghwathi had filed two affidavits whose respondents were Kebofentse M. Phetolo, BCP parliamentary candidate for Letlhakeng- Lephephe and Keanogile Mender Melao, BCP’s council candidate for Mantshwabisi. In his ruling, Senior Magistrate Bhekimtilo Sibanda of Molepolole Magistrate Court stated that “lack of opposition of necessity follows that the application shall be held in respect of the above respondents without much ado. Only three remain which are for 5th, 7th, and 8th respondents.” He added that in terms of the Electoral Act, a person or prospective voter should register where they have their principal residence. Magistrate Sibanda said all the three respondents failed to convince him that their principal residence was where they had registered for elections.
“Mr. Kebofemetse Phetolo basically confused property ownership in one area as tantamount to being one’s principal place of residence,” he said. He also found that equally, the 7th and 8th respondents, Kealeboga Keotletswe and Keanogile Melao, gave evidence which simply showed that they were not permanent residents where they were registered to vote. He therefore ordered that the respondents’ names should be struck off the voter’s rolls in respect of constituencies where they are currently registered to vote for the 2014 general elections. In his first affidavit, Mokgwathi indicated that Kebofentse Phetolo, a resident of Phokompe in the Takatokwane constituency, was registered under the Electoral Act as a voter at the Kgesakwe Polling Station (Letlhakeng North Polling District, Letlhakeng-Lephephe constituency). He added that Phetolo was registered as number 4442912 as shown on page 204 of the voters roll.
Given the above stated reasons, Mokgwathi prayed and asked the Court to cancel Phetolo’s registration at Kgesakwe Polling Station and/or strike him off the voters roll as per Electoral Act Cap. 02:09. In the second affidavit, Mokgwathi stated that on October 2013, Keanogile Mender Melao, a resident of Molehele Ward, in Sesung village, registered as a voter at Molehele Polling Station, Letlhakeng North Polling District, Letlhakeng-Lephephe Constituency. He added that Melao, a resident of Sesung village in Takatokwane Constituency, registered as a voter at Serinane Poling Station (Mantshwabisi Polling District, Letlhakeng-Lephephe constituency) whose number is 44939378 as shown on page 62 of the voters roll.
“Given the above stated reasons I pray and ask the court to cancel Melao’s registration at Serinane Primary School Polling station and/ or strike him off the voters roll as per Electoral Act Cap. 02:09,” prayed Mokgwathi. As time went on, Mokgwathi found the other Respondents chargeable by the same offence and filed affidavits accordingly. The other eight failed to show up at the court to defend against the charges. In an interview with Sunday Standard, Chief Elections Officer Dintle Rapoo confirmed that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had received the court order that the respondents should be struck off the voter’s roll. “The procedure is that the order will be passed to the Commission Secretary who will act accordingly,” he said.
Asked what would happen to those who were also candidates for electoral office, Rapoo explained that the status of parliamentary and council candidates will only be confirmed when the writ of elections and the electoral instruments have been issued. “Currently we know of political seat aspirants whose names we do not know. We will only come to know of them when nomination has been done; when those who qualify have qualified,” he said. However, he did agree that once stricken off, the aspirants would not qualify for candidature.
“It would depend on the Magistrate’s decision whether they would qualify for electoral process. Should the Magistrate invoke section 104 of the Electoral Act then the candidates would not participate in the electoral process for a period not less than five years,” said Rapoo. However, BCP spokesperson Taolo Lucas said he has no knowledge of any of the party’s candidates being struck off the voter’s roll. He added that he could not furnish this publication with any further concrete answers pertaining to the matter as he was not in the office. “Check the office to find whether they indeed receive such news,” he said.