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“Don’t Interfere With Parliament”– High Court

The High Court stood firm on Friday for the independence of parliament from other organs of state and emphasized the need to have a free parliament that conducts its own business without even the interference of the courts.

The  Attorney General, an ex-officio member of cabinet , with the help of the ruling Party, the  Botswana Democratic Party, dragged parliament to court to force it to conduct the election of the vice president, the speaker and deputy  without applying parliament  standing orders which have been in effect since 1998.

Delivering judgement on Friday justice  Michael Leburu said Parliament has been  delegated  by the superior law,  to regulate its own  procedure where the constitution has not made such  a procedure,…  “Our law recognised the privilege of parliament to  regulate its own procedure.

It does so by passing resolutions that give rise to Standing Orders..(which) contain rules for the conduct  of  proceedings in the house  and for the exercise of  the powers  possessed  by the house”.

Judge Leburu also noted that the Constitution envisages voting, but  does not  spell out the method thereof. In order to put such voting process into effect the Standing Orders have been legislatively crafted and created in order to  give effect or put into operation the voting process, as envisaged in the constitution, the judge said.

“Such standing orders do not in my view  amend, alter, vary,  or modify any constitutional provision. In effect, they put flesh  to the skeletal framework and does not in any

shape or form amend, alter, vary,  or modify the  constitution.” The High Court also moved to protect parliament from intimidation  when it exercises its voting previlleges during the election of the Vice President, the Speaker and Deputy speaker.

“ It is a fundamental principle of our constitutional democracy  that  everyone has the right to  take part in the government of their  country through freely chosen representatives. 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 freedom and fairness of voting is assessed by secrecy of the ballot and the freeness of voting.

The freeness of  such voting is intrinsically intertwined with the freedom of expression as guaranteed and entrenched in our constitution.

A secret ballot is the hallmark of  a free and fair election in our representative democracy. Our national  election is  premised on secret ballot, as stated in the Electoral Act, which derives its validity  from the Constitution.”, Leburu said in his judgement.

He also noted that the election of  the Speaker and the deputy speaker  and the endorsement of the Vice President  in the present circumstances is the continuation of  the  just ended General Elections  which  recognises the secret ballot.




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