The second Justice Michael Leburu uttered the last words of the judgement, the combined courtroom 7 and 8 was immediately transformed into a Broadway like theatre - people broke into song, hugged and even kisses were exchanged, hands shaken and history written. It would seem the audience’s prayers had been answered.
The attorney general’s lawsuit against the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which resulted in Parliament failing to commence for business had provoked a lot of interest from Batswana from all walks of life.
After the three judges confirmed that they unanimously dismiss the case with costs, lawyers representing the BCP and the UDC and the leaders of both parties were showered with complimentary messages, the state attorney and the ruling party legal team quietly picked their stuff and left, much to the oblivion of the ecstatic crowd. So popular and appealing was the case that the partition separating courtroom 7 and 8 was scrolled back to make way and accommodate multitudes who flocked to the court to follow the proceedings.
Among the many prominent figures, who followed the proceedings with keen interest were the presidents of the two opposition parties, Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Margaret Nasha and various members of parliament also attended court. The BCP and UDC had argued that both the speaker and MPs be enjoined as respondents in the matter. Trade unionist Johnson Motshwarakgole was also among those who graced court religiously since the case commenced. Daniel Kwelagobe, Ndelu Seretse, Brigadier Iphemele Kgokgothwane and Sidney Pilane are among the many within political and legal circles that had been seen in court either on Thursday or Friday following the case.
While it may not spring any surprises to see the public figures in court following the case, because naturally it is a political matter it was, however the ordinary Batswana from all walks of life, who were a marvel to watch. It was clear that something out of the ordinary had taken place in the country’s political landscape. Even when court was in recess, conversations that followed the tangible silence in court centred around court proceedings. In the restrooms in the midst of freshening up, ordinary ladies, not attorneys not the seriously corporate, just ordinary young Batswana women discussed the case in earnest. Cellular-phone calls were continuously made to update those at home about the developments of the case and with smart-phone users photos were taken and shared instantly across different social media platforms. Young men stood in small circles and pondered the case. Both the famous and the ordinary interacted freely during the break; it was evident that they had been brought together by a common factor. Comments made and views rendered along the High Court corridors from attendants clearly painted a picture of an audience that had been listening attentively with interest. Ordinary folks in their curiosity engaged the many attorneys working on the case. The attorneys themselves worked overtime, answering questions hauled to them in and outside the court.
When the ruling party attorney Parks Tafa submitted his heads of arguments in court on Thursday, a heavy silence befell the court everybody listened as to get first-hand what the ruling party wanted to achieve. Tafa had made submissions that his party supported the attorney general’s application. Tafa’s submissions were full of interjections from the three judges presiding over the case, whenever either of the judges made comments, murmurs and subdued jeers erupted from the courtroom. The audience was equally attentive when the opposition party attorneys deliberated. However, unlike Tafa, their court presentations were always followed by affirming nods and protesting soft murmuring whenever the audience felt judges were not in their favour.
The final nail was hammered in when finally judgement was delivered on Friday afternoon and more than three quarters of the court attendees broke into song in jubilation. It is clear that this year’s general elections have not only heightened political interest among Batswana but had also exposed them to different issues of national interest.