The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) on Wednesday scored a small victory
against the ruling Botswana Democrartic Party and the election management body, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
A panel of three High Court judges ruled that all parties in elections petitions matters are entitled to inspect elections material kept by the Registrar of the Court. Reasons for the decision will be delivere at the conclusion of the petitions, they ordered. Now, from Monday until Tuesday midday, the High Court will furnish the UDC with election material to inspect , a development which the IEC (in cahoots with the BDP) opposed vehemently.
Questions have also been raised about the confidentiality of elections managed by the IEC after their advocate, Andrew Redding, while advancing reasons to convince court not to grant the UDC access to elections material, made a shocking revelation that a vote can be traced to how an individual voter cast their ballot using serial numbers on the ballot paper. This means, every ballot can be traced back to the voter after ballots are cast.
The shocking revelation surprised many, among them Alliance for Progressives (AP) Secretary General, Dr Phenyo Butale, who took to social media and posted: “He banna, so it is possible to identify who actually cast a particular vote using serial numbers? Kwa ka sima balume! Like I always say, secrecy is corrosive! I will never be on the side of secrecy. Transparency is the way to go, for any real democracy! The IEC as a custodian of such a sensitive process as elections should be seen to be promoting transparency at all costs.
In matters of access to information, there is what is called the’harm test’. This is a situation where the custodian of information has to weigh the harm of withholding the information against that of releasing it. I feel it serves our democracy better to allow access in this case. Besides i cant help but wonder what harm will be visited on the IEC or even the integrity of the electoral process should this access be granted? In actual fact i hold a view that our confidence as voters of the Electoral process stands to be boosted by such transparency. In any case the custodian of information (in this case electoral material), the IEC is not the owner of the information but they are holding it in trust for us the voters and/or players in the electoral process. This legal gymnastics is beginning to raise more than eyebrows!”
Meanwhile, the hearing of petitions will start with the petition of Mogalakwe Mogalakwe at the High court beginning next week.