Wednesday, May 27, 2020

UDC electoral petitions stall cases

Litigants and remand prisoners who are awaiting trial and have been caught in a case in which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is challenging the legality of the October 23 general elections.The result of the 16 petitions filed before the High Courts across the country by the UDC means that judges of the High Court have to abandon cases midway to deal with the petitions within a reasonable time, The Sunday Standard has established.

This was corroborated by Gaborone High Court Judge Justice Omphemetse Motumise who told attorneys acting for the UDC, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that judges presiding over the petitions and lawyers representing petitioners must block their diaries to complete the petitions.“Several processes must be concluded before trials commence; they include roll call, how the matters can be expedited, discovery and filling of reports and case management conferences,” said Motumise.

He added that ‘these are matters prescribed by the rules as to how trials must be conducted,” While he acknowledged that petitions by nature should be treated as matters of urgency, the Electoral Act does not speak of the procedure to be followed.“We have looked at the Act and we believe that there should be an agreement as to how the matters are to be dealt with. These petitions should be dealt with as trials. They have to be dealt with in an efficient and cost effective manner,” he said.

Justice Motumise added that “it is why we have put up a proposal and that is why we believe that all stakeholders (judges and lawyers) must have an input.”Motumise added that all stakeholders should ensure that pleadings, affidavits, interlocutory applications, trial dates, etc are all in order. The petitions will be dealt with as normal trials, he said.One of the judges who forms part of the panel Itumeleng Justice Segopolo explained that he was recusing himself citing a long standing relationship with President Mokgweetsi Masisi. But a day later Segopolo was retained as part of the panel.He explained that the two petitions out of 16 wherein President Masisi had been cited were allocated to another panel of judges.  The Gaborone High Court 1st panel of judges comprises of Justice Omphemetse Motumise Justice Gaopalelwe Ketlogetswe and Justice Itumeleng Segopolo.

Earlier on, Justice Ketlogetswe explained that they have to expeditiously deal with the petitions cost effectively within the statutory 90 days as per the Independent Electoral Commission Act (IEC Act). The court resolved that filing of necessary documents be done before end of December. The court resumes January 8, 2020.The petitions before the panel led by Ketlogetswe have been launched by among others, Ghanzi North candidate Noah Salakae and Kgalagadi South candidate Marcus Chimbombi.The 2nd panel of judges comprised of Hon Judge Michael Leburu, Hon Judge Mercy Garekwe and Hon Judge Godfrey Radijeng. The scheduling order agreed upon by the parties was that the filing will be on the 10th, followed by the response on the 13th and trial to commence on the 17th of December at 0900, court 6.

The petitioners are, among others, the UDC President and Parliamentary candidate for Bonnington North Duma Boko, Tlokweng Parliamentary candidate Kenneth Segokgo, Bonnington South Parliamentary candidate Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Nelson Ramaotwana for Gaborone South and Mochudi East Parliamentary candidate Moagi Molebatsi.

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