The President of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Advocate Sydney Pilane has upped the ante to dizzying heights in his bid to crush the political career of main opposition leader Duma Boko in ways the latter could never have guessed.
Pilane waltzed into a Village Magistrates Court Friday morning to announce that he was the legal representative for a clutch of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members who want to see Boko removed from the 2019 voters roll.
His clients have confirmed he has taken the case pro-bono, for free, indicating more the antipathy that bears his political archenemy that he blames for what he won’t admit are his party’s marginal chances at the polls.
Boko is charged together with his wife, Kaone, for registering to vote in a constituency which is not the location of their primary residence. As a taste of what is to come, Boko’s lawyer, Dick Bayford, began by going technical, pleading with the court to lay down the procedure before the case could proceed.
Bayford argued that the objectors had undertaken some procedures that violated laws. “The objectors embarked on a certain procedure, a part of which, in our view, flagrantly violated even basic rules of (the) Magistrates Court, (and) a part of which even violated the Tax Act,” said Bayford.
In the proceedings, it emerged that the lawyers representing the objectors had independently subpoenaed the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), the Clerk of the National Assembly and Water Utilities Corporation to ascertain Boko’s principal residence.
It also emerged that the Clerk of the National Assembly Barbara Dithapo had not cooperated with the lawyers, citing privilege and threat to national security as reasons, among others.
However, the Acting General Manager at BURS responsible for the Processing Centre, Gofaone Baleseng, had complied with the subpoena and extracted information from Boko’s income tax files. But while Bayford is challenging the validity of this route, Pilane’s legal understudies could be heard discussing the possibility of subpoenaing land board authorities.
Bayford urged Magistrate Mogi Paya to frown upon what he termed illegally obtained documents that are intended to be addressed to the court while they are in fact a violation of people’s human rights. “We speak about the rule of law (and) we must see it in action,” said Bayford.
“Although it might seem to be a simple case of removing him (Boko) from the voters roll, it has far-reaching consequences. He is not only a potential voter of Gaborone Bonnington North. He is also a potential candidate of the National Assembly for the said constituency. If he is removed from the voters roll, he would not be able to stand and it does not end there. He is a potential presidential candidate for a leading opposition party.”
Bayford argued that Boko would not stand both for Parliament and the presidency because Sections 61 (c) and 33 of the constitution require that one must be registered and qualified to vote to do so. “And it is just too ghastly for me to comprehend the ramifications thereof,” he said. “It might even go into the annals of history and might impact on the health of our democracy.”
Bayford, who has a reputation as a human rights lawyer, implored the court to insulate itself from any impropriety, or else he would elevate the matter to higher courts for review to ensure it started on a clean slate.
However, for his part, Pilane argued that Bayford’s objections were made when evidence had already been adduced. “We are not opposed to a postponement,” Pilane said. “They should say they need more time to prepare for their client’s case. We need them prepared. Fully prepared.”
He urged Magistrate Paya to not be intimidated by suggestions of superior courts because the law gives jurisdiction to magistrates courts. “A destructive party does what Bayford has just done,” he said. “Please don’t be intimidated by attempts to make him (Boko) special because he is not. He is here as a voter just like you and me. The rest is irrelevant. He is not above the law. Positions that he holds (and) where he holds them are irrelevant. His identity is irrelevant. This matter is weighty as all others. He starts in the same position as all others.”