Wednesday, July 24, 2024

People’s Court affidavit could spawn host of defamation lawsuits

A sworn statement that a Motswana man made in a foreign jurisdiction, then disavowed could possibly lead to a defamation lawsuit.

A month after the October 23, 2019 general election, Dikabelo Selaledi deposed to an affidavit before Paul O’Sullivan, a British-South African fraud examiner who lives in Johannesburg. In the nine-page affidavit, Selaledi accuses the Botswana Democratic Party of having rigged the election, something he claims to have first-hand knowledge of because he connived with the party. Not only did he name names of individual voters, churches and football teams, he also provided what he asserts is documentary evidence of the rigging. The latter is in the form of photocopies of registration cards whose owners, some being university students, are alleged to have also participated in the electoral fraud.

Paragraph 24 of Selaledi’s affidavit states: “Prior to me signing this statement, I have carefully read through it and I am satisfied that the facts are correctly and accurately recorded.” To the question, “Do you consider the prescribed oath binding on your conscience?”, Selaledi made a “yes” entry.

However, on the day that a three-day event to expose the vote fraud was to be held, Selaledi appeared on Duma FM to disavow the affidavit. The story he told is that the Umbrella for Democratic Change recruited him into a scheme to discredit the elections by making wild allegations of fraud. After being approached by party leaders, he was put on a plane to Johannesburg, he claimed, where he met UDC’s sponsors who gave him R50 000 as “pocket money.” He was keen to stress that this money had nothing to do with the affidavit he would later craft. For that he was promised P500 000 and a parliamentary seat in the event the UDC petition succeeding. When the petition failed, Selaledi says that he was promised P250 000 as something of a token of appreciation for his connivance. The money never came and the people who recruited him ceased all communication with him until not too long ago when they wanted him to feature at the People’s Court as a witness.

An opposition figure says that it is clear that Selaledi changed his story following a meeting with ruling Botswana Democratic Party leaders. He particularly names a cabinet minister who is also a member of the party’s Central Committee as having been the contact person. During the Duma interview, the presenter suggested to Selaledi that given what he has revealed about himself, it is reasonable to assume that he changed his story after his palm was greased for the second time.

However, Selaledi’s bigger problem is not making a case for his credibility. If his allegations are indeed false, then he could find himself dealing with a plethora of defamation lawsuits from the organisations and individuals that he names in his affidavit. The affidavit has been floating around social media for some time now – which more than justifies a defamation lawsuit. Lying under oath is a criminal offence and the legal reasoning we have availed ourselves of says that purposefully misleading a commissioner of oaths (O’Sullivan) can theoretically attract a criminal charge from South Africa. 

Ultimately though, the evidence will prove what version of Selaledi’s story is true.

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