Political parties have expressed delight following the ruling of the Court of Appeal (COA) to urgently hear the elections petitions launched by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
This comes after Justice Lakhvinder Singh Walia ruled that the UDC has reasonable arguable cases on elections hence he found no reason for refusing the expedited hearing of the appeals. The UDC vice president, Dumelang Saleshando said he was happy with the ruling because elections disputes should be resolved expeditiously.
He said he would prefer a Special Elections Tribunal not bound by the strict formalities of the normal court procedure.
“At the end of the day people who are aggrieved must be given a hearing where a tribunal established that there were irregularities that resulted in an illegitimate government, such a government shouldn’t unduly be in office for a long period,” Saleshando who is also Maun West legislator said.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) spokesperson Banks Kentse said as a party they have always said the rule of law must take precedence. “Justice delayed is justice denied. This is an important principle because the longer it takes for the petitions to be resolved, the more it brings a shadow of uncertainty. We don’t have a problem with the courts of law as we know that people voted to be ruled by the BDP for the next five years,” said Kentse.
Fifteen applicants, including the UDC leader Duma Boko, who were unsuccessful candidates in October 23, 2019 parliamentary elections had petitioned the High Court challenging the results. The petitions were heard by the High Court in three tranches. In each petition there was one dissenting ruling and by majority decision each petition was dismissed, the court in each case upholding the respondents’ (Botswana Democratic Party candidates) preliminary
Justice Walia said at a roll call yesterday, the parties reached a consensus that sufficient reason exists for the expedited hearing of the appeals and that the appeals should be consolidated. He also said that the appeals would be heard on January 29, 2020.
“Consent to the expedited hearing of an appeal is a strong but not determining factor in consideration of an application for the expedited hearing of the appeal,” Walia said. He further said in terms of the rules of the CoA, an applicant in such an application must satisfy the Judge hearing the application that the notice of appeal filed by the applicant demonstrates reasonable prospects of success.
“For the purpose of this ruling, narration of the guidelines is not necessary as the matters under consideration are of such national importance that they be adjudicated upon without delay. This is acknowledged by the parties and I am satisfied on the papers that the applicants have reasonable arguable cases on appeal. I can see no reason for refusing the applications.”
The Judge also expressed his gratitude to the parties and their legal representative for according the applications the urgency and importance they deserved and for facilitating a smooth progress of the matter.
The landlocked Southern African country of about 2, 2 million people voted in a general election on October 23, 2019 and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) emerged victorious with 38 seats against the UDC’s 15 seats. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “violation of one man one vote principle in some constituencies”.