Botswana Movement for Democracy’s court application, in which they were challenging their ejection from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), was this week dismissed with costs, a decision taken unanimously by a panel of three judges.
The much anticipated court verdict was dramatically delayed after the court staff printed the wrong version of judgment. The High Court upheld BMD’s expulsion by UDC before recognizing Botswana Congress Party (BCP), as a full member of the umbrella project. Since its acceptance in the UDC, BMD has never been at peace with BCP inclusion claiming that they (BCP), were out to grab their (BMD) constituencies and this was part of the politically charged court case.
The BMD argued that the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures when expelling it. When countering the BMD argument, UDC said BMD was irrelevant by saying its expulsion was unconstitutional because the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) body.
When passing a judgment, the Gaborone High Court quashed the BMD claim saying the party which is led by veteran lawyer Sidney Pilane, failed to produce a legal and credible case to convince the courts. A vividly jubilant UDC president Duma Boko, welcomed the judgment stating that, “when I speak about this matter I speak with potency and authority. I have fought this battle and I have all the scars of this battle!”
However, for Pilane it is not over yet as he is not conceding to a defeat by UDC. “I think we will file an appeal application tomorrow (Friday),” Pilane told journalists after the much anticipated judgment. Last month Pilane lost another case involving the UDC, in which he wanted the party president Boko, to be struck from the voters’ roll because he had not registered at his residential place. In this case, the UDC was represented by South African senior counsel Kennedy Paul and senior counsel, public speaker, author and political activist, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. BMD and its leader Pilane, on the other hand were represented by South African senior counsel Alexandra John Freund, as they battled it out in court.
BMD SUBMISSION BY SC ALEXANDRA FREUND
In their heads of submission, Freund said in expelling the BMD, the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures. He stressed that the body which purported to suspend and expel the BMD from UDC styled itself as the NEC. The South African attorney further said that the structural body was not part of the NEC and had no power to suspend or expel the BMD from UDC.
Freud, also submitted that the body which purported to take the offending decisions has not been elected by UDC constitutional structures, therefore it is not constituted. “The only entities of the UDC which could have authority under the constitution, in justifiable circumstances, to suspend or expel a member of the UDC are its NEC, which it made provisions for and constituted in terms of the UDC registered.” He therefore emphasized that the suspension and expulsion decisions were not taken by the Umbrella Negotiating Team (UNT), since it has not operated or existed since August 2012.
The South African senior counsel further narrated and submitted to the court, that prior to taking the decision to suspend and expel BMD, the Presidents and Secretary Generals of the BMD and BPP, were not present and did not have prior notice of the meeting at which these decisions were taken.
“Similarly, neither the BMD President and Secretary General and none of the 5 Conveners of the Negotiation Process participated in the body which purported to be the NEC and in the taking of the impugned decisions, nor did any of them have notice of the offending meetings; both of which invalidated the meetings and the decisions there made.”
Freud said the reasons given for the decisions to suspend and expel the BMD from the UDC, are ostensible and false, the true reason being; an unlawful conspiracy by the BCP and BNF to take the 14 constituencies allocated by the UDC to the BMD in which the party (BMD), will present its members as UDC parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general elections.
Freund then questioned UDC constitutional affairs. “The UDC has not, since its inception, held an elective congress and has never given notice of an intention to hold such a national congress as is required by Article 18.104.22.168 of the UDC registered Constitution,” he said.
UDC’S COUNTER ATTACK BY SC KENNEDY PAUL AND THEMBEKA NGCUKAITOBI
The UDC lawyers evidently held the BMD case in derision. Paul, told the court that it has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. “What we have here is a political situation, and with all due respect, it is unrealistic to seek the court to interfere in political matters,” he said. Paul said that BMD’s submission that the UDC failed to abide by the constitution and allowed the wrong structural bodies to make a decision in expelling the BMD, was irrelevant as the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the NEC body.
Adding to Paul’s arguments, Ngcukaitobi pointed out to the court that the applicant failed to establish a case on the basis of its suspension and that UDC has before expelling the BMD used the right body, structures and processes. “The political party should be allowed to run its course, this court has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. Therefore, we move that this application be dismissed and with costs,” Ngcukaitobi said.
Ngcukaitobi also stressed that indeed all the constituents’ members were present when taking the decision to suspend and expel the BMD. He emphasized that the right decision was taken by the right structures and the right procedure was followed. “The UDC was dealing with a BMD that has split. There has been an internal squabble in the BMD. There was chaos inside the BMD, the BMD has always provoked other members, and its leader is provocative,” said Ngcukaitobi.
The South African young lawyer further emphasized that the process followed indicates that whatever decision was taken, shows that it was a dialogue since 2017, and there was no bias. “On the 11th of November 2017, Pilane was reprimanded in the internal meeting for making toxic pronouncements, but on the 11th of October last year, he denied everything. This was after a meeting on the 18th of September, in which the UDC condemned and blamed their Moshupa-Manyana by-election loss on BMD. Chaos within the BMD is spilling over to UDC, hence the need to take a decision,” Ngcukaitobi reminded the court.
In conclusion, Ngcukaitobi casted doubt on Pilane working together again with UDC, saying political alliance should be based on trust. He insisted that: “What has been politically broken cannot be legally fixed. We have a pointless application here. What we have here is the highest form of breakdown between these two parties. Dismiss the case and ask them to pay the costs.”
The Botswana DanceSport Association (BODANSA) has been graced with a financial boon of P45,000 courtesy of Turnstar Holdings. This generous endowment is earmarked for the illustrious Botswana International Dance Sport Grand Prix Championships, which are scheduled to animate Gaborone from Friday to Saturday.
At a media engagement held early today, BODANSA’s Marketing Maestro, Tiro Ntwayagae, shared that Turnstar Holdings Limited has bestowed a gift of P45,000 towards the grand spectacle.
“We are thrilled to announce that this backing will enable us to orchestrate a cultural soirée at the Game City Marque locale, a night brimming with cultural fervor set for March 1, 2024, from 6pm to the stroke of midnight.
This enchanting space will also serve as the battleground for the preliminaries of traditional dance ensembles—spanning the rhythmically rich Setapa to the euphoric beats of Sebirwa, the spirited Seperu, the heavenly Hosana, and more—in a competition folded into the Traditional Dance Groups Category. The ensemble that dances into the judges’ hearts will clinch a grand prize of P10,000,” elaborated Ntwayagae.
He further illuminated that the cultural eve would not only celebrate traditional melodies but also the fresh beats of contemporary dance variants including Hip Hop, Sbujwa, Amapiano, among others, in a dazzling display of modern dance mastery.
Moreover, these championships carry the prestigious recognition by the World DanceSport Federation as a qualifying round for the Breakdance category for the Paris 2024 Olympics. “This is a monumental opportunity for athletes to leap towards their Olympic dreams during one of the penultimate qualifiers,” underscored Ntwayagae.
Looking ahead to March 2, 2024, the festivities will propel into the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Arena for the championship’s climactic showdowns encompassing Breakdance, Latin, and Ballroom Dancing.
In Botswana, a beacon of democracy in Africa, the right to participate in the political discourse is a cornerstone of its societal structure. It’s an avenue through which citizens shape the rules and systems that govern their everyday lives. Despite this, recent studies indicate that Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs) are notably absent from political dialogues and face substantial hurdles in exercising their democratic freedoms.
Research within the nation has uncovered that IWDs encounter difficulties in engaging fully with the political process, with a pronounced gap in activities beyond mere voting. The call for environments that are both accessible and welcoming to IWDs is loud, with one participant, who has a physical disability, spotlighting the absence of ramps at voting venues and the dire need for enhanced support to facilitate equitable involvement in the electoral process.
The challenges highlighted by the study participants pinpoint the structural and social obstacles that deter IWDs from participating wholly in democracy. The inaccessibility of voting facilities and the lack of special accommodations for people with disabilities are critical barriers. Those with more significant or intellectual disabilities face even steeper challenges, often feeling marginalized and detached from political engagement.
To surmount these obstacles, there is an urgent appeal for Botswana to stride towards more inclusive and accessible political stages for IWDs. This necessitates a committed effort from both the government and relevant entities to enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of IWDs to partake in the political framework. Enhancing awareness and understanding of the political landscape among IWDs, alongside integrating inclusive practices within political entities and governmental bodies, is crucial.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing an inclusive political environment, Botswana can live up to its democratic ideals, ensuring every citizen, regardless of ability, can have a substantive stake in the country’s political future.
Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.
A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.
The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.
Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.
By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.