FRANCISTOWN: As the voter registration gets underway on Monday following an earlier postponement, the Francistown High Court has once again confirmed the October 31 rule nisi which allowed the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to observe and monitor the process which officially kick-starts the election cycle.
After postponing the registration, which was scheduled for November 1 to 30, 2023, the Independence Electoral Commission (IEC) has been interdicted and restrained from preventing the UDC from observing and monitoring the national elections registration process. The electoral body opposed the UDC’s quest to deploy its agents, popularly known as Madibela Tlhopho, during the voter registration exercise saying that it was not provided for by the Electoral Act and Constitution. Speaking of the Constitution, the court is yet to make a final determination of an application determining the extent of UDC’s constitutional right to observe and monitor registration. The main application will be heard on November 15 by a panel of three judges as the application is a weighty matter and of national interest.
For now it is a win for the UDC after the Francistown High Court’s Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe directed and ordered the IEC to, “allow the UDC to observe and monitor the registration exercise including having the latter’s agents record the names and national identity card numbers of the people registering to vote and record the serial numbers of the registration booklets for each and every registration day at the opening and closing thereof”. The judge has also ordered that the UDC shall deploy no more than two agents per polling station. Granting the UDC the relief it sought, Ketlogetswe said reliefs sought by the UDC resonates well with Section 65 A (12) C of the Constitution of Botswana which enjoins the IEC to ensure that elections are conducted efficiently, properly, freely and fairly. The IEC argued that the UDC matter was not urgent, rather the urgency was self-created because the UDC has known very well after the 2019 General Election that the Electoral Act does not permit the IEC to allow party agents to observe the voting registration exercise but only allow during polling day only.
The IEC added that if the law wanted party clerks to observe and take data of those who come to polling stations for purposes of registering for elections, the law would have expressly said so. The IEC pointed out that in the absence of such a law, it means that party agents are not permitted to observe and take data of people who present themselves at polling stations to register for elections. However, Ketlogetswe said the IEC will suffer no harm if the UDC deploys its agents during the voter registration, but allowing them to observe the exercise will entrench democracy.
The judge also made an order that the IEC should pay the costs of the application including costs of attorneys and advocate. Both parties will return to court on November 15 for the final determination of the main application.