Court dismisses UB political ban case

Muzzled: The UB slapped a ban on political activism last week
Muzzled: The UB slapped a ban on political activism last week

Justice Michael Mothobi has dismissed with costs a case in which a University of Botswana (UB) student challenged the decision of the UB Council to ban party politics at the institution.

The student, Setlhomo Tshwanelang, had filed an urgent motion against UB and attorney Parks Tafa in his capacity as the UB Council chairperson.  Dismissing the case yesterday afternoon, Mothobi said he was not satisfied that the matter was urgent. “Respondents’ argument of lack of urgency is a valid one,” said Mothobi.

The dismissal of the urgency, without the arguing of merits, means Tshwanelang’s only avenue is to file a routine application.

Mothobi gave the student leave to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal.

Arguing the case on behalf of Tshwanelang, attorney Kabo Motswagole assisted by Friday Leburu submitted that the UB management wrongly implemented the June 13, 2014 council resolution. Motswagole said his client had no problem with the resolution of the council.

“Truly and historically the students have been contesting elections as individuals.  The fact that they are grouping themselves under the banner of a certain party, does not mean they are not contesting as individuals,” said Motswagole.

He said Tshwanelang’s campaign was under the colours he wanted to use not propagating a message of any national political party.

He added: “Students are allowed as they have always been, to be members of political parties”.

He said the implementation on March 23, 2015 of the Council resolution was a clear ban. “Urgency is not self created.  Management is infringing on his rights,” he said adding that the applicant has expressed intentions to contest the elections.

For his part, attorney Boipelo Matenge appearing with Dineo Mpho-Makati and Mutande Kaluzi submitted that Tshwanelang did not understand the decision on the June 13, 2014 Council resolution.

“The applicant cannot come here to say ‘this is what I understand the resolution to mean’. The decision was made on June 13, 2014. Further that, this decision was communicated to the student body on June 16, 2014,” said Matenge.

She said the press release of June 27, 2014, which was widely advertised, was clear that the decision was not to ban student politics. She further submitted that the memorandum of March 23, 2015 was not a decision of the UB management, but a reminder of the Council’s resolution of June 13, 2014. “There is no urgency on the matter. Only  now when they are being made aware of the decision of the council on June 13, 2014, they rush to court on self-created urgency,” said Matenge.

Matenge submitted that the applicant was not prohibited from affiliating with any political party, arguing that he could not seek to misconstrue the resolution as a clear ban of political affiliation.

“The applicant can go ahead and contest elections, but cannot do so by campaigning under the banner of any national political party.

This application is a clear abuse of court process and costs must be awarded to the respondents,” she said.

Meanwhile, the UB Student Representative Council elections will be held today.

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