Sunday, May 22, 2022

High Court fees hinder Dibeela from petitioning for a recount in Mathethe

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Parliamentary candidate for Mathethe/Molapowabojang constituency in the just ended General Elections Dr Reverend Prince Dibeela said hefty fees required by the High Court as security stopped him from petitioning the court to order and supervise a ballot recount in the constituency.

Information reaching Sunday Standard is that Dibeela together with a team from UDC compiled information which they believed was part of evidence that they intended to use when filing the petition with the High Court. Dibeela confirmed this week that he engaged Rantao and Kewagamang Attorneys in a bid to have the outcome of the Mathethe/Molapowabojang results nullified. He argues that the verification process by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officers was irregular and improper.

“We then tried to challenge the whole thing and realised that only the High Court can entertain the petition not the Independent Electoral Commission. That is when we also realised that it is an expensive process. My lawyers told me that I’m required to pay around P90 000 with the High Court as security,” said Dibeela. He was unable to afford the amount as he had just emerged from what he called a heavy election campaign and spent close to P300 000.

“I could not afford to pay P90 000 as security in order to file a petition as I had spent a lot during the campaign,” he said. Dibeela’s bone of contention is that the returning officer announced that the 16 378 people voted but the figure did not tally with the figures garnered by the three parties that participated in the constituency; the Botswana Democratic Party, UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP). According to the figures released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Dr Alfred Madigele (BDP) garnered 8 283 votes, Dibeela (UDC) 6 891 while Tiny Kojane of (BCP) managed 928 votes. Dibeela said the spoilt ballots were 1278 and this resulted in the figure of the people who voted being 17380 which was more than the initial 16 378 announced by the returning officer.

“The returning officer never did the verification process to ensure that everybody was satisfied with the results. When he stood up we thought he was going to start with the process of verifying the results but he only announced the results,” said Dibeela. Dibeela noted that “The returning officer did not also ask us if we accepted the results. He only brought us a blank white paper which I refused to sign. I challenged him on the spot but he was only interested in me signing the paper. He skipped a necessary stage of the electoral process; verifying the results with everybody.” Dibeela said the results posted on IEC website were not the same as those that had been announced by the returning officer at Mathethe/Molapowabojang constituency. “They had now radically reduced the number of spoilt ballots. I had initially asked the returning officer to count the spoilt ballots but he refused,” said Dibeela.

He said during their investigations they discreetly contacted some junior police officers in the area to obtain a video that they intended to use as part of evidence but they declined to corporate as they feared to be victimised. Asked why they didn’t approach the station commander, Dibeela said “we did not want to make too much noise because we feared that they could destroy the video tapes.” He said if it was not the fees to petition the court which were “unreasonably high,” they would have also approached the court to compel the police to release the video.

“We had witnesses who are not members of the UDC who were willing to testify,” said Dibeela. His recommendation is that the Electoral Act should be amended. “It should not only be the rich who can petition the High Court if there is a disputed election result. We also need an election tribunal which can meet quickly to consider all petitions at a minimal or reasonable cost and ensure that justice is done,” he said.

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