FRANCISTOWN: The cat-and-mouse case launched by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) against the Attorney General (AG), Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Secretary to the IEC raged before Justice Lot Moroka on Friday.
The case that can aptly be summed by the idiom “so near and yet so far” will go for trial from April 8- 12, 2019. The attorney for the BCP, Dutch Leburu told the court that the Friday hearing was set to deal with subpoenas that the applicant issued against the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB).
“We sought from the PPADB any correspondence between it and the Office of the President (OP) or any government department or the IEC in relation to the procurement of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). We have had discussions with PPADB. They have provided us with documents that we will file. They also promised to furnish us with all the remaining documents,” said Leburu.
The second entity that the BCP subpoenaed, Leburu revealed, was the director in the Department of Civil and National Registration. Said Leburu: “The subpoena to the department sought information relating to citizens of this republic who will have qualified to vote in the period between September to December in 2018, the period between January to June in 2019, the period between September to June in 2023 and the period between January and June in 2024”.
The intention of this statistical evidence, Leburu explained, is to show the magnitude of how many voters would be disenfranchised and in the process their constitutional rights being violated should the supplementary registration exercise be abolished. “Unfortunately, the sheriff did not serve the director personally hence his absence in court today. I will, however, make a follow up to make sure he is properly served,” Leburu said. Leburu continued: “Thirdly, we subpoenaed the secretary to the IEC. The documents we sought from him related to the total number of registered voters in 2004. We sought the documents and evidence of those who registered during the supplementary and continuous registration exercise. We also sought the same information about people who registered in 2014. I have, however, received a notice of objection to the subpoena from the AG. I think it would be appropriate for the AG to address that issue”. When responding, counsel Thato Mujaji for the first respondents (AG) confirmed having received the subpoenas from the BCP on February 20.
She said: “We filed our notice to oppose on Thursday in terms of order 33 of the rules of the High Court of Botswana. We submit that the procedure adopted by the BCP was irregular”.
After Mujaji said so, Leburu rose from his chair and said that no application was made to that effect. Justice Moroka then advised the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys that the people that Leburu subpoenaed cannot testify on Friday because the AG has raised an objection. Moroka said: “We have to deal with your objection procedurally”. Leburu then responded: “I entirely agree with the decision of the court. I believe we can now confirm trial dates”. Continuing from where she left, Mujaji stated that they also have another issue that they wanted to address. “We want to place it on record that there is a bill related to the amendment of the Electoral Amendment Act of 2016, which was gazetted on February 12. The bill will have a bearing on this case. The bill may end up rendering this trial mute or an academic exercise,” Mujaji said.
Justice Moroka then advised both parties in the matter to bring the bill procedurally before court and show how it will affect the matter. “You should probably meet and discuss that aspect,” Moroka said. In response, Leburu said: “We spoke about the proposed bill yesterday with one of the defence attorneys, but I have not seen that bill.” The public gallery this time was almost empty unlike in the past when the court was filled to the brim when the matter was heard in court.
Only two journalists and four officials from the IEC were in court on Friday.