Politicians and the public who thronged the merged Court- rooms 7 and 8 were treated to a tasty dose of legal arguments in the constitutional case over the process to be followed when electing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and endorsing Vice President.
The case revolved around the constitutionality of the amended standings orders used for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. The following is a nutshell account of yesterday’s court proceedings that took eight hours. This was indeed a very interesting beginning to this long awaited and important case.
As the lawyers presented their arguments the three judges-Michael Leburu, Singh Walia and Tebogo Tau became inquisitive and couldn’t help but keep interjecting seeking clarification on points of law.
First to take the stand was Deputy Attorney General, Morulaganyi Chamme, who addressed among other issues whether the AG has legal standing on the matter or not and that the matter had to be heard on urgency basis.
Judge Leburu: Who is the custodian of the Standings Orders?
Morulaganyi Chamme (AG): Once the Standing Orders are being chal- lenged in court there is no custodian.
Judge Walia: You said the Attorney General is acting on behalf of government, who is government?
Chamme: She is part of government. Government is the executive, or it can mean the three arms of government. She is acting on behalf of the executive.
Judge Leburu: Is voting by nature not secretive?
Chamme: Voting in parliament is a completely different thing.
Judge Leburu: Is this voting not an extension of the general election?
Chamme: This one is basically a special dispensation. Members of Parliament have the mandate of the people and the people want to know how their representatives are voting. In India and the United States of America they vote by hand.
Judge Walia: You need to educate us here, what are these biggest democracies saying about this voting. Is it in the constitution or is it parliament regulating itself?
Chamme: In India parliament is regulating itself.
Judge Walia: Then that is a selfdefeating argument.
Then Collins Newman and Company Senior Partner, Parks Tafa representing the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) took the podium as the third respondent. The BDP however supported the application.
During his submissions Tafa at one point suggested that they were dragged into the case, prompting an exchange between him and Judge Walia.
Judge Walia: I don’t think you were dragged here, you initiated the process.
Tafa: Maybe drag is not the right word. I withdraw the word.
Walia also had a little exchange with Mboki Chilisa who was representing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) together with Dick Bayford. Chilisa was arguing that the matter is not urgent and that it was a hypotheti- cal question.
Judge Walia: Please stick to the urgency part.
Chilisa: With all due respect I am addressing urgency.
Later Botswana Congress Party lawyer, Dutch Leburu made submissions that a “self-created constitutional crisis” is serving few people.
Leburu: Someone special is being considered for this Vice Presidency
Judge Walia: Mr. Leburu, this is not a freedom square, do not make political statements