The Court of Appeal on Monday dismissed an application by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leader President Ian Khama and Attorney General in an appeal which they sought an order declaring Standing Orders prescribing the election of the Speaker of the national assembly, Deputy Speaker and endorsement of Vice President unconstitutional.
The case had first been dismissed by Gaborone High Court judges comprising Justice Michael Leburu, Justice Lakvinder Singh Walia, and Justice Tebogo Tau.
The three judges had ruled that the endorsement of the Vice President and the election of the Speaker and Deputy speaker by way of secret ballot was the continuation of the General Elections.
Dismissing the case with costs at the High Court last Friday, Justice Michael Leburu noted that “the right to vote is an indispensable feature of our democracy. It is therefore important that voting must be free from intimidation and or coercion. The Constitution recognises a right to vote in terms of Section 67.”
Giving judgment on Monday on behalf of Justices, Stephen Gaongalelwe, Elijah Legwaila, Isaac Lesetedi and Maruping Dibotelo, Court of Appeal President Ian Kirby said “The Standing Orders of Parliament relating to the election of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the endorsement of the Vice President by secret ballots and the accompanying procedures did not contravene any of the provisions of the constitution.”
Kirby said accordingly the appeal was dismissed.
The two appellants, BDP and AG were ordered to jointly pay the costs of two respondents, being Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), including the costs of two counsels. Reasons for the dismissal will be given at a day to be set.
Reacting on the case, UDC attorney Dick Bayford of Bayford and Associates said instead of advancing our democracy and making it vibrant so that it becomes something that is admired by other democratic dispensations there has been an attempt and the thinking within the ruling party to put Botswana back to where things are not done in a democratic set up. “The good thing is that there has been vindication from the Court of Appeal and we celebrate this decision,” said Bayford.
Opposition parties also reacted on the judgment.
Botswana Congress Party leader Dumelang Saleshando said the case was never about serving the interests of the public but was all about addressing differences within the BDP.
“At first all the three judges of the High Court were in the agreement that there is nothing unconstitutional of the standing orders and now the five judges of the Court of Appeal have come out to say there is absolute nothing unconstitutional about the standing orders. Like we have always maintained, this was never about serving the public interest, it was all about addressing differences within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party,” Saleshando said.
Saleshando said it was most regrettable that the Attorney general allowed her to be dragged into a political issue and abducted that responsibility of defending the constitution and rather sort to abuse the constitution.
“This is an era that Batswana must brace for.┬á This is the president who does not put his country first but who put his personal convenience first. Yes, the president has provided some entertainment for the past two three days but at a huge costs to the nation,” he said.
He furthered that Khama pushed the Attorney general to put the matter before the courts but him (Khama) was nowhere to be found.
┬á“Where was he when all this was going on? We saw him yesterday busy on Botswana Television in Shoshong donating blankets. This is the president who does not have his priorities right and I hope that Batswana will take note of these and reflect further on the future of this country because we are heading nowhere with President Ian Khama,” said Saleshando.
UDC president Duma Boko said he is happy that the judiciary has acted. ┬á
“We believe that the judiciary has acted to uphold justice and to uphold the interest of this country and we commend them,” Boko said.