THE fierce war for the control of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) raged over the weekend with some supporters of the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction alleging that the government had begun processes to suspend the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kananelo Mosito to ensure that he does not adjudicate over the dispute by the party’s warring national executive committee (NEC) factions.
The Mahao loyalists believe that Justice Mosito will be targeted because he issued that favourable judgement that allowed Prof Mahao to contest in the party’s 1 and 2 February NEC elections.
Prof Mahao has the apex court to thank for its 1 February 2019 judgement which overturned his disqualification from the NEC elections where he clinched the deputy leader’s post. Prof Mahao is on record saying that he will appeal to the apex court if he loses the case against his election to the national executive committee (NEC) of the ABC. Last Tuesday, the Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase nullified the outcome of the February 2019 elections which ushered in Prof Mahao and others into the ABC’s NEC.
Justice Mahase ruled that the old NEC should remain in charge for a year and during that time it should initiate processes to amend the ABC constitution to provide for NEC elections which said are currently not provided for in the constitution.
The Acting Chief Justice delivered the default judgement in an ex parte (one sided) application filed in the High Court on Monday by Advocate Thulo Hoeane on behalf of his clients, Motseki Lefera, ’Matumisang Ntiisa and Martha Makhohlisa.
Although the lawyers representing the Mahao faction are yet to file a notice of their intention to challenge Justice Mahase’s Wednesday verdict, some Mahao loyalists have said that the Thomas Thabane administration had initiated processes to suspend Justice Mosito.
Dr Thabane and other senior officials of the old NEC have made no secret of their displeasure with the Court of Appeal after it ruled that Prof Mahao should be allowed to contest at the party’s February elective conference.
It was on this basis that when the Court of Appeal was suspended in April, ostensibly due to lack of funds for its operations, there was widespread speculation that the real reason why it had been shut down was to ensure that the Mahao faction does not launch any application against any adverse High Court ruling against it.
On Friday, prominent Pro-Mahao activist, Advocate Thato Ponya, took to his Facebook page to allege that Justice Mosito would be suspended on Friday 10 May 2019.
“Prof Mosito to receive a letter that suspends him shortly today (Friday 10 May 2019),” Adv Ponya stated, adding that the government wanted to suspend Justice Mosito to stop him from presiding over cases relating to the infighting in the ABC.
Yesterday, Justice Mosito refuted allegations that he would be suspended telling the Sunday Express that, “I can assure you that there is absolutely no truth in that toxic social media political propaganda”.
The Press Attaché in the Prime Minister’s Office, Thabo Thakalekoala, also refuted Adv Ponya’s claims which did not come to pass as there was no suspension letter that had been issued to Justice Mosito at the time of the Sunday Express went to print yesterday.
“The allegations that Justice Mosito will be suspended because of a possible court application by the Mahao camp are unfounded.
“Government does not have any plans to suspend or fire Prof Mosito. He will remain as the President of the Court of Appeal of Lesotho. Government does not have any reasons to suspend, impeach or fire him. If ever it happens that government wants to take that route, it will give convincing reasons. The allegations are only meant to confuse the nation.
“We have names of some of these people peddling these allegations and one of them is Thato Ponya. We appeal to them to immediately stop peddling these allegations that are intended to cause commotion. Government still has all the confidence in Justice Mosito as the President of the Court of Appeal,” Mr Thakalekoala said.
He said in any event, suspending a President of the Court of Appeal or any judge for that matter was a process not a one day event.
“The prime minister will not wake up in the morning and decide to fire Prof Kananelo Mosito or any judge. Issues surrounding the appointment and firing of judges are governed by the constitution of Lesotho and there are clear processes that the prime minister must follow if he wants to fire any judge.
“Those processes involve the prime minister approaching King Letsie III as His Majesty is the one who appoints judges. There would have to be an impeachment and that takes a long time. It is not something that can be started today and completed tomorrow and those peddling these allegations should be aware that judges are protected by the constitution against anyone who would want to abuse them.
“This is further to ensure the independence of the judiciary as an arm of government because it should be independent from all these other arms of government,” Mr Thakalekoala said.
The ABC has been at war with itself following the February 2019 election conference whose results were nullified by Justice Mahase on Wednesday. It was a court application and verdict which caught the Mahao faction by surprise.
Others who were elected into the new NEC are Dr Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).
However, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have not been able to assume power due to fierce resistance from the old NEC as well as the 11 February 2019 court challenge by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).
The old NEC, which is said to enjoy Dr Thabane’s backing, has declared it is only prepared to compromise and allow the new NEC into office if Prof Mahao steps down as deputy leader. It says that Prof Mahao, who joined the ABC in 2015, is a “relative newcomer” who should not be allowed to succeed Dr Thabane ahead of more seasoned ABC politicians who formed the party almost 13 years ago in 2006.