The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) petitioners were given a lifeline to inspect election materials ahead of their petition trial but for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) it is an attack on its integrity.
The IEC, which tried to block the inspection, were objecting a request by the petitioners to be allowed to inspect election materials saying the materials were personal and should not be made public. This was in relation to Noah Salakae and five others who had applied to the Court to inspect the election materials.
IEC advocate, Andrew Redding SC during arguments on Wednesday said making the election material public could compromise individual security as they could reveal who voted for what.
He explained that the inspection was more of an attack on the IEC integrity and that the petitioners had not even made a case to be allowed access to the material.
“There is no way the court should allow the request because it can compromise the security of the ballot especially for the voters, election materials are personal and not everyone should be given access,” he said.
Redding said election materials are held in secrecy for a reason and that they should not be probed unnecessarily and that they were not for public consumption.
He said bringing the request was not prejudicial as per the request, but just feels like an attack on the integrity of the election body.
“Not allowing anyone access to the election material is not because of us hiding anything, but it is just a matter of principle and it should be respected,” he said.
Redding also pointed out that the petitioners did not make any case except to say there were irregularities during election
Further on the objection to inspect, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyer, Busang Manewe said the petitioners had not set out sufficient basis for a case therefore the access to the material should not be allowed.
Manewe explained that not every petitioner has a right to inspect the election material as there has to be a sufficient reason for court to make a determination if there is a need to do so.
“I am not aware of any provision in the Electoral Act of any right for any petitioner to inspect the material just because they have made a request. No section in the Act that gives such right so accordingly it is not everyone who should be allowed access to have the material inspected as there is no such provision, there should be enough reason for such,” he said.
Despite the objection from the IEC and the BDP, a panel of three High Court judges Itumeleng Segopolo, Omphemetse Motumise and Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe all agreed that the petitioners have the right to inspect the material as they had reasonable suspicion that there were irregularities during election.
The panel, who took 10 minutes after the arguments to deliberate on the ruling, said reasons for the ruling would follow at the end of the petition trial.
All parties agreed on how the inspection should be carried out, which the judges made it the order of court.