Sunday, September 27, 2020

Campaign posters land unionist in the soup

An employee of the Manual Workers Union, Motseothata Gopane, found himself on the wrong side of the law on Friday when he was detained by the Bobirwa police for circulating campaign posters ‘blacklisting’ several BDP parliamentary aspirants.

The bundle of posters bearing portraits of the BDP members, among them Bobirwa MP, Shaw Kgathi, urged villagers not to vote for him. Police also seized some of the posters he had already distributed in the constituency.

Kgathi complained that the message was illegal because it was in breach of the Electoral Act.

“The message is illegal because he is not representing any political party,” said Kgathi, who at the time of going to press was at a police station to protest against the distribution of the posters.

“I have never known the Manual Workers Union to be a political party registered to contest in Bobirwa,” he said.

Kgathi said that he had checked with the Independent Electoral Commission and there is no other party except the BDP and BCP that should campaign at Bobirwa. He criticised the Union, stating that it had no right to discuss his inabilities.

He said that the distribution of publications by Gopane was illegal as it amounted to publishing alarming publications.

“What this man is doing is contrary to Section 59 of the Penal Code and Section 115 of the Electoral Act,” Kgathi stated.

However, Gopane said that as far as he is concerned there is nothing illegal about the union’s publication as the organisation was merely expressing its views.

Speaking from Bobonong, he said he was still awaiting a response from the police head office on whether to release him or detain him for the night.
“They say I will leave once deputy commissioner of police, Kenny Kapinga, decides,” he said.

He said that he was accused of breaching the Electoral Act by Kgathi who is contesting the election against Botswana Congress Party (BCP) secretary general, Taolo Lucas.

He further revealed that police had warned him that they will charge him for distributing the posters which paint Kgathi and others as enemies of democracy who are not worthy of being voted back to Parliament.

Reached for comment, Kapinga said that the issue was now with the Commissioner of Police, Thebeyame Tsimako.

“I am aware of the issue but I can’t say anything because investigations are still ongoing,” revealed Tsimako.
Meanwhile, lawyers acting for the Union, Rantao Kewagamang & Bogosi Attorneys have written a letter to Tsimako protesting about Gopane’s arrest by the Bobonong Police. The lawyers say that by advising potential voters who to vote for, neither Gopane nor the Union have committed a criminal offence.

“We are also of the view that Bobonong Police are in violation of our client’s freedom of expression which is enshrined in the constitution of Botswana,”reads a letter signed by the Union’s lawyer Tshiamo Rantao.The lawyers warn the Police to stop interfering in the Union’s exercise of its freedom of expression. The lawyers say they intend to launch an application with the High Court if the Police block the distribution of the Union’s posters.

Further, the lawyers have also indicated that they intend to sue the Police for detaining Gopane.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.