Botswana voter registration in limbo as IEC, UDC face off in court

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Botswana’s voter registration process for the 2024 general elections hangs in the balance. The process has been suspended as the opposition party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), and the Independent Electoral Commission face off in court.

The UDC secured an interim order, interdicting the IEC from preventing UDC agents from monitoring the voter registration process.

But things took a sharp turn after Chief Justice Terence Rannowawe appointed two more judges to hear the UDC’s main application to have its election observers monitor voter registration.

The UDC returned to court to challenge the impanelling of a bench to hear their main application to have observers present during voter registration.

However, counsel for the respondents supported the authority of the Chief Justice in deciding to appoint two additional judges to hear the main application.

“In terms of our law and in particular, the oden kraal principle or rule, the decision of the honourable chief justice stands until set aside by a duly and properly constituted court of law….given that this matter is before you brought by the applicants themselves we submit strictly speaking none of these three judges should sit to determine the legality or otherwise of the chief justice decision. They are all conflicted including yourself my lord,” says the attorney for the respondents, Busang Manewe.

The attorney representing the UDC, Andile Tau, remains steadfast against the appointment of the two judges.

“ This very interlocutory application is properly before his lordship as his lordship is properly charged with the matter. The applicant says it sits in this matter. Merely by its sitting when the sitting is in question to the lawfulness, legality, propriety then that panel has already caused the applicant irreparable because they then have decision-making powers and that would be akin to turning this honourable institution into a kangaroo court.”

The presiding officer, Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe, hands down an interim order for the respondents to show cause why the orders should not be made final.

“I have added paragraph 2.2 which says the hearing of the substantive application, is hereby postponed until the finalisation of this application. and paragraph three that the applicant in due course, files an application for the review of the decision of the first respondent to empanel, three judges in the matter, appointing the fourth and fifth respondents to preside over the substantive matter. for paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2. above shall operate as an interim interdict until the finalisation of this application,” says High Court Judge Justice Gaolapelwe.

The matter is expected back in court next week. –Report compiled with the help of Botswana Television