FRANCISTOWN: The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) wants the court to issue an interim interdict against the decision of Chief Justice (CJ) Terrence Rannowane to empanel three justices to hear its interlocutory application.
The applicant in the interim application is the UDC while the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth respondents in the matter are CJ, Acting Registrar of the High Court, Attorney General (AG), Justices Bengbame Sechele and Taboka Slave, and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) respectively. On November 10, 2023, Rannowane wrote a letter to UDC informing it of his decision to empanel a bench of three judges to hear its main application in a case in which the UDC wants its electoral agents to be present during the voters’ registration process and other related rights. The main application of the UDC is scheduled for November 15, 2023, but at the moment there is doubt whether the case will continue as scheduled before Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe. The CJ took the decision to empanel a bench because according to his letter “the UDC vs IEC case is one of exceptional public importance and he has consequently appointed a panel of three judges (Ketlogetswe, Sechele, and Slave) to hear the case”. The attorney for the UDC, Andile Tau, told the court that the substantive application in this matter will be heard tomorrow (Wednesday) which issue caused the UDC to make the interlocutory application after the CJ wrote a letter dated November 10, 2023, to the UDC. “At the point that the CJ purports to have empanelled three judges to hear the substantive application in this matter, the matter was already allocated to Justice Ketlogetswe.
The UDC acted under the impression that the conduct of the CJ was unlawful because when you challenge an administrative decision, you (CJ) should have moved by way of a review application. The urgency of this matter is predicated on the main application tomorrow. The reason why the UDC brought this interlocutory application is because it has a bearing on the UDC’s substantive application tomorrow," Tau said. "As soon as there is doubt of the capacity of any judicial authority (Sechele and Slave) to exercise their judicial functions, their rights may be violated by the November 10 (2023) decision of the CJ. We, therefore, submit that the rights of the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth respondents may be violated by the November 10 (2023) decision of the CJ. The decision of the CJ will muddy the rights of the respondent hence we are urging the court to issue a rule nisi with return date in order to protect the rights of the respondents...,” Tau said.
In response, the attorney of the first to the fifth respondent, Busang Manewe, said it was common cause that the interlocutory application made by the applicant is based on the letter written by the CJ to the UDC dated November 10, 2023. “The CJ says that the UDC vs IEC matter is of exceptional public importance hence his decision to appoint a bench of three judges to hear the matter. It is equally not in dispute that this application is an interlocutory application in the main application due to be heard tomorrow," he said. "In fact, our position is that Justice Ketlogetswe and other judges empanelled by the CJ should have been respondents in this matter... We submit that none of the judges appointed by the CJ to preside over this matter should sit and determine this matter. They are all conflicted, including His Lordship Ketlogetswe. In fact, what his lordship (Ketlogetswe) is being called upon to do is to sit and determine a matter involving himself and the two other judges (Sechele and Slave) who are also incompetent to hear this matter,” Manewe argued. The case continues.