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UDC petitioners face exorbitant legal fees

TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
UDC pertitioners at Court of Apeal PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
While businesses and individuals are grappling with challenges brought about by the (COVID-19) coronavirus-induced lockdown, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) 2019 general election candidates received sobering news to cough up on legal costs.

Mmegi has been reliably informed that by end of business today, all those who lost election petition cases would be served their litigation bills.

This comes after 14 members of the UDC took some members of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to court claiming that they were cheated out of votes in the 2019 general election.

The High Court and Court of Appeal (CoA) dismissed with costs all 14 of the UDC petitions.  This week, Nelson Ramaotwana, who was contesting for Gaborone South constituency confirmed that the BDP attorneys have slapped him with a P392,000 litigation bill.

Ramaotwana was contesting against Dumezweni Mthimkulu of the BDP. The letter of demand written by Bogopa, Manewe and Tobedza states, “In light of the judgement of the Court of Appeal dismissing your client’s case with a consequent order of costs, we propose that you pay the sum of P112,000 being full and final settlement of costs of suit.

You are advised to pay this amount of P112,000 at our offices within 14 days of receipt of this letter failing which we hold strict instructions from our client to prepare a bill of costs, enrol same for taxation and thereafter to recover client’s costs through a writ of execution”. In their response Ramaotwana’s law firm states: “We received two letters of demand relating to legal costs both at the High Court and Court of Appeal against Ramaotwana.

We note that the High court proposal is P280,000 payable within seven days from date

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of receipt of same.

Cumulatively the two legal costs add up to P392,000”. Another contender for Lentsweletau/Mmopane Olebogeng Watshipi said he has received P112, 000 legal cost for just the Court of Appeal legal costs and he is waiting to receive another bill for the High Court litigation.

Contrary to some media reports last year that the BDP attorneys have slapped the UDC with a P10 million legal costs bill, the amount is not anywhere near the initial figure.

The petitions came from parliamentary candidates including that of UDC leader, Duma Boko, whose case was dismissed with costs by the Court of Appeal citing lack of jurisdiction. 

Botswana held its general election on October 23, 2019 with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) winning a majority of 38 seats against UDC’s 15.

The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the general elections citing ‘irregularities in some of the constituencies’. 

The BDP has ruled Botswana since independence from Britain in 1966.  In his ruling, CoA President, Justice Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals.

These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel.” Mmegi has also learnt that the UDC is struggling to pay its legal bill of about P1 million for the advocates it engaged for the petitions. 

The UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa could only say the party was helping the petitioners with ways to pay up the huge legal bills.



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