After more than 10 hours of legal jousting and procedure, the High Court yesterday granted the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s application for the continued suspension of Parliament, pending the party’s appeal of the Friday judgement to the Court of Appeal today.
On Friday, Justices Michael Leburu, Lakhvinder Singh Walia and Tebogo Tau dismissed with costs an application in which the Attorney General sought to abolish the voting of the speaker, deputy speaker and endorsement of the vice president by secret ballot as unconstitutional.
Yesterday evening, the three judges allowd the BDP to appeal, meaning Parliament remains suspended pending the Court of Appeal’s decision on the case that resumes later today
BDP attorney Parks Tafa argued that a stay of execution of Friday’s judgement would not be prejudicial to any party.
“You may take note that Parliament has been in recess since August 29 and if that order is granted to let Parliament continue to be on leave at least for another week or two to allow the Court of appeal to look at all these issues, the prejudice is minor.
“The only complainant would be government if there are some urgent bills or such. The inconvenience is minimal, but the price of getting it right from a bench of five at the Court of Appeal must be paid.”In response, UDC lead counsel, Duma Boko, who was making his debut in the matter, said the BDP was attempting to force the High Court to cross constitutional boundaries between the judiciary and the legislature.
“You are being invited by the applicant to cross the boundaries that you have clearly enunciated in your judgement where you have said you will not interfere in the functions of another constitutional body,” he said.
“They are asking the court to cross
Boko added that any prejudice suffered by the BDP in the denial of a stay of execution, would be resolved within the Constitution which provides for relief where there a problems with the election of the Speaker of the National Assembly.
“They have not shown that they would suffer irreparable harm if their interdict is not granted. They are coming and asking through the back door to bring in an interdict against the sitting of Parliament and this is something that the court should prevent by dismissing their application with costs.” Meanwhile on Saturday, Tafa wrote to the Attorney General and the Clerk of Parliament asking that Parliament begin on Monday using a “show of hands” vote instead of secret ballot, while the appeal goes through the Court of Appeal.
He also asked the UDC and the BCP to agree to a consent order on the same issue. The two opposition parties, however, resoundingly rejected the proposal, leading to Sunday’s arguments for a stay of execution.
The suspension of parliament comes as the Clerk of the National Assembly had convened Parliament on Tuesday for the business of electing the speaker, the deputy and endorsement of the vice president. The announcement was made on Saturday afternoon. Ahead of the election, legislators were asked to submit their nomination forms for the two positions by 11:00 pm today, which is in line with one of the Standing Orders requiring 24-hour notice of nomination.