The High Court has postponed to November 6 an urgent application in which the Attorney General wants amendments to parliamentary Standing Orders that allow for secret ballot voting of the Vice President, declared unconstitutional.
A panel of three judges consisting of Justices Singh Walia, Michael Leburu and Tebogo Tau ordered that the respondents are to file and serve on the applicant their answering affidavits or any other answer to the applicant on or before October 31, 2014.
They also ordered that the applicant should file and serve on the respondents her replying affidavit on or before November 3.
“The parties shall file their respective heads of argument by the 5th day of November 2014. ... The issue of today’s costs is reserved for argument,” Leburu said.
The swearing-in ceremony of the 57 newly elected Members of Parliament plus the four specially elected ones that was set to take place yesterday has been put on hold pending the issuance of a proclamation by President Ian Khama.
The question before court is the constitutionality of the Parliamentary Standing Orders which provide for the endorsement by Parliament and election by Parliament of the Vice President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively by way of a secret ballot. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership and Khama believe that the secret ballot provisions are unconstitutional and that Members of Parliament have to vote by show of hands.
Khama fears that the MPs will sabotage his choice of Vice President, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker hence he wants the vote by show of hands. It is believed that Khama prefers his younger brother Tshekedi Khama to be the Vice President.
On the other hand, the opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are of the view that there is nothing unconstitutional about the secret ballot provision. The UDC, BCP and the BDP have been cited as respondents in the case.
Khama’s BDP was on Saturday given another five-year mandate by the voters when it was elected into power.
Of the 57 elected parliamentary seats, the BDP won 37. The UDC, which contested the elections for the first time, garnered 17 seats while the BCP won only three seats.
This means that the vote shared based on preliminary figures, are 46.7% for the BDP, 30.8% for the UDC, 19.5% for the BCP, and 3% for the various independent Parliamentary candidates.
The BDP’s 46.7% of the vote won it 64.9% of the National Assembly seats.
This is the first since Botswana gained independence in 1966 from Britain that the BDP garnered less than 50% of the votes in what observers hailed as free and fair elections.
Yesterday morning the Parliament public relations office released a statement to the effect that: “The public is informed that the swearing in ceremony of the 57 newly elected Members of Parliament plus the four specially elected Members of Parliament that was set to take place on Wednesday, October 29, at 9 am at Parliament Buildings has been put on hold pending the issuance of a proclamation by President Ian Khama.”
Dick Bayford led the team of UDC attorneys while Busang Dutch Leburu and his team appeared for the BCP. Parks Tafa and his associates led the BDP team.