Govt taken to court over primary elections participation

Botswana Public Employees Union and National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) have dragged the Botswana government before the High Court Justice Modiri Letsididi for denying them a right to vote at the primary elections.

The Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Eric Molale and the Attorney General (AG) have been cited as the respondents.
The applicants representing approximately 60, 000 public officers want an order declaring the decision of the PSP prohibiting public officers from voting in primary elections unlawful, unconstitutional and that public officers have a right to and are entitled to vote in primary elections.
National Organising Secretary of NALCGPWU, Johnson Motshwarakgole, states in an affidavit that since the first elections of the Republic of Botswana, public officers who affiliate to political parties have always been voted in primary elections, which are conducted by secret ballot.

Motshwarakgole further states that Molale’s advice was based on his interpretation of Section 5(5) (b) of the Public Service Act, of which he (Motshwarakgole) contends that it does not prohibit public officers from voting in primary elections.

He added that, “in the event the court finds that the Act prohibits public officers from voting in primary elections, we will then submit that it is unconstitutional, being in breach of the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Section 11, and the right to freedom of association as entrenched in Section 13 of the Constitution.”

While Motshwarakgole concedes that there is some virtue in seeking to keep the public service politically neutral by not allowing it to become associated with a particular political party, he argues that the neutrality is not obliterated by public officers simply exercising the civil political right of casting a ballot.
The AG is still to respond to the application.
The applicants are represented by Mboki Chilisa of Collins Chilisa Consultants while AG is represented by David Moloise.