Twelve months before the general elections, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) symbol has not been registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The electoral symbol of UDC encompasses all the three symbols of the political parties under the Umbrella party namely; the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). In an interview with Sunday Standard, UDC secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi said the symbol has not been registered as the leadership is yet to map the way forward on the matter. He revealed that there is a case pending before the courts in which some BNF members want the symbol of their party not to be withdrawn from the IEC and that it shouldn’t be used by UDC.
“We cannot go ahead with registration. We either have to weigh the particulars of this case or wait for the decision of the court,” he said. He however said the leadership will have to take decisions swiftly in view of the 2014 general elections. However it has emerged that some leaders of the UDC have in the recent past approached the IEC seeking advice on the procedure and requirement for registration of a political party that encompasses other parties. IEC principal public relations officer, Osupile Maroba said their legal counsel advised the UDC leaders to consider section 150 of the Electoral Act which describes how registration must be done. He however could not reveal the exact legal advice that the commission issued. However sources close to the BNF have revealed that IEC lawyers told UDC leaders that the electoral law does not allow for registration of an umbrella party as the law only recognises political parties. They said this has given the leadership a hard time on what steps to take. Section 150 of the Act forbids the registration of a symbol that is identical to that of a political party already registered with IEC.
It reads, “A political party may apply through its leader or secretary for registration of a symbol and voting colour to be used by it at elections, and the Secretary (of IEC) if satisfied- that no other symbol of same design is registered; that colour is not already registered; that the symbol and colour and distinctive from any symbol and colour already registered and that the use of such symbol and colour will not be offensive or otherwise objectionable, shall register such symbol and colour as the symbol and voting colour of that party.” The source has also ruled that the leaders were made aware of 2002 BPP case in which the High Court ruled that the electoral law does not permit the registration of an alliance of political parties. This was a case in which the BPP wanted its symbol removed from that of Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM). In the BPP case, the High Court held that BPP was entitled to have its symbol registered and the BAM symbol de-registered but held that the initial registration of the BAM’s symbol was invalid as the law permitted only political parties to apply for registration of their voting symbol. The court said it was common cause that the BAM was not a political party nor was it when it applied to register the symbol.