Venson-Moitoi loses case against BDP

Venson Moitoi with her lawyer Dick Bayford PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Venson Moitoi with her lawyer Dick Bayford PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential aspirant, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi late last night lost her challenge against the Kang congress, with judges ruling she was not rightfully before the court and her case had no urgency.

The former minister and Serowe West legislator had dragged the party to court on urgency arguing against its decision to cut 26 names from her list of sponsoring delegates, a decision that effectively ended her challenge against the incumbent, president Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The 26 names cut are councillors whom the BDP says cannot be delegates for the elective congress.

However, in a ruling delivered to a packed courtroom just before midnight, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane sitting with Justices Abednego Tafa and Godfrey Radijeng ruled that Venson-Moitoi had no locus standi to bring the case before the court. The justices said the former Cabinet minister had not declared in her founding affidavit whether she was a citizen by birth or naturalisation. Venson-Moitoi’s father is of Malawian descent.

Locus standi refers to the right to bring an action to court.

The three justices also ruled that Venson-Moitoi’s application was not urgent.

Outside court after the judgement, the former minister’s counsel, Dick Bayford told journalists that they had advised her to submit names of delegates who are not councillors to the party.

“She agreed to do so,” said Bayford.

“We are however still surprised why her citizenship is being questioned now.”

BDP lead counsel, Basimane Bogopa told Mmegi that the congress would proceed as scheduled and Venson-Moitoi could participate if she met the requirements.

“We don’t know if she meets the requirements, that’s something for the party’s secretary general to comment on,” he said.

“We are happy with the judgement and the fact that the judges agreed with us on two points of limine being locus standi and urgency.” Earlier on during arguments on the matter, Venson-Moitoi’s citizenship once again came under the spotlight.

The BDP had raised the issue of Venson-Moitoi’s citizenship as one of its contentions against her application.

The former minister’s attorney, Kgotso Botlhole, who was responding to the BDP’s argument that Venson-Moitoi did not have locus standi to bring the matter to court, defended her saying she had every right to seek remedy within the courts as a citizen and a hopeful candidate.

“She has fully shown that she is a citizen and has a legal right to stand for the party presidency; the country one we are not yet there. She has no other remedy after the congress,” he said.  On the merits of the case and its urgency, Bayford said Venson-Moitoi had every right to show displeasure especially since 26 of her supporters had been disqualified at the last minute. He explained that Venson-Moitoi had considered those disqualified as her delegates since the constitution was not clear on the issue. “Those were her delegates more so that the constitution does not explain the delegates but is merely descriptive,” he said.

Bayford also argued that the matter was urgent and his client had not waited until the last minute, as she had shown her discomfort by way of writing to the party first.

He said Venson-Moitoi had tried other remedies before approaching the courts, noting that the presidential hopeful had indicated that she has been having ‘a hard time’ since indicating her candidacy, which led her to submit her list of delegates late.

“As indicated in her affidavit she had a difficult time getting sponsors as people who associate with her have been engulfed with fear of victimisation,” he argued.

Submitting on points they raised against Venson-Moitoi, BDP attorneys Busang Manewe and Bogopa said the case should be dismissed as the former minister had failed to demonstrate her right to bring the matter to court in the first place.

Bogopa argued that Venson-Moitoi had erred in interpreting the word delegate to encompass other groups of people who are eligible to vote.

Bogopa said a delegate as per the BDP constitution means only those who are nominated to vote at their individual branches and this does not include councillors.

“The use of the word delegate in the constitution is deliberate and there is a distinction between delegates as they are voted for, councillors and members of the National Council.

“The collective name for these groups of people is voting members. The collective name is not delegates and they have different privileges,” he argued. Meanwhile it is still unclear exactly what transpired at the attempted ‘ceasefire’ meeting between Venson-Moitoi, President Masisi and some senior members of the party held in yesterday afternoon.

The meeting had been called by both sides to seek an out of court settlement. Bayford only told the court that the meeting failed to bear any fruits.

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