ABC’s NEC case further postponed
Mohalenyane Phakela / Nat Molomo
ACTING Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase has postponed to 5 March 2019 the case in which two cabinet ministers and a legislator from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) are seeking the nullification of the election of Professor Nqosa Mahao and the rest of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
Justice Mahase, who postponed the case on Friday, said the postponement was necessitated by the late receipt of an affidavit from the applicants’ lawyer, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti.
She said she needed more time to go through Adv Sepiriti’s affidavit which she only received late on Thursday.
Justice Mahase also said the new NEC remained barred from assuming office until after she had finalised the application against their election.
Ministers Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry), Keketso Sello (Mining) and the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane on 11 February 2019 filed a High Court application seeking the nullification of the election of Prof Mahao and others to the party’s NEC. They also want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.
Prof Mahao polled 693 votes to clinch the deputy leader’s contest ahead of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro (546 votes), former acting incumbent, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe (245 votes) and outgoing party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe (97 votes) at the ABC’s elective conference in Maseru from 1 to 2 February 2019.
Lebohang Hlaele, the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs secured 618 votes to wrestle the secretary general’s post from the former incumbent Samonyane Ntsekele who polled 422 votes.
In the chairperson’s election, Mosalemane constituency legislator Samuel Rapapa polled 829 votes to beat Senator Kemiso Mosenene (380 votes), Defence and National Security minister Tefo Mapesela (239 votes), Lithoteng legislator Lehlohonolo Moramotse (71 votes) and Maliepetsana legislator Mpalipali Molefe (43 votes).
The LCN announced the rest of the new NEC line-up as follows: 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 the rest of the winners have not been able to take up their positions in the party’s NEC due to the lawsuit by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
The ABC, the ABC’s NEC, the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), Prof Mahao and other candidates in the ABC polls are cited as the first to 44th respondents in the lawsuit. The LCN are cited in their capacity as the organisation that ran the polls on behalf of the ABC and announced the new NEC line-up.
On 13 February, Justice Mahase granted an interim order barring the newly elected ABC’s NEC from assuming the office until the main application seeking the nullification of their election is finalised.
And on Friday, Justice Mahase postponed the case to 5 March 2019 to give herself time to go through the affidavit from the applicants’ lawyer, Rapapa Sepiriti, which she said she only received late on Thursday.
Justice Mahase also extended her interim order suspending the newly elected NEC from assuming office to 5 March. She made the ruling on 13 February 2019 and it was initially set to lapse on 15 February– the date she had set for dealing with the case. However, on 15 February, she did not finalise the case on the grounds that some of the lawyers had submitted the required documents for the case very late.
On that day she told the lawyers that could not be “treated like a robot” that was expected to quickly read and understand bulky documents.
“Even if it is said I am strong I cannot be expected to have read these documents by now. Even a computer cannot work under such pressure, I am not a robot. I have never seen this behaviour since assuming the post of being a judge,” Justice Mahase said on 15 February.
And on Friday she once again vented her frustrations on some of the lawyers over the late submission of documents necessary to the case.
“I do not know why I should keep repeating that the filing of papers, bulky ones for that matter, should not be done within a short space of time and yet I am expected to have gone through them before coming before you,” Justice Mahase said.
And on Friday, Justice Mahase once again vented her frustrations at the lawyers who she accused of delaying with their documents and yet they expected her to expedite the case.
“I was in court for the entire day (on 21 February 2019) and later in the evening at home, my registrar (Nthati Molapo) brought these bulky papers to me. I am human too and I’m entitled to rest or sleep.
“Therefore, I did not have a chance to go through them. I cannot come to court blank and I hope you will appreciate what I am saying and also consider the amount of pressure I am working under.
“The matter is postponed to 5 March 2019 and the rule (interim order barring the new NEC from office) is also extended to the same date,” ordered Justice Mahase.
Prior to her ruling, the defendants’ lawyers attempted to convince her to hear and deliver judgement on Friday.
“We object to any postponement sought by the applicants as on 15 February I mentioned that the applicants approached this court on an urgent basis and they were granted orders affecting other parties adversely as those parties were not given the chance to be heard.
“On 13 February we were ordered to file affidavits the following day and we duly complied. On 15 February Advocate (‘Mabat?oeneng) Hlaele wanted to argue the points she had raised but the applicants were not ready to argue the matter. We submitted that the applicants be ordered to file on 18 February 2019 but the court decided that they should file on 20 February.
“The applicants have been treated better than us and we wonder why. You ruled that the matter would proceed today (Friday 22 February) as all the necessary papers have been filed and we are ready to proceed now. At least we will be happy if the court rules in our favour today. We do not want the perception that My Lady (Justice Mahase) is lenient to applicants but contrary to us,” Adv Patsa Mohapi said.
Adv Koili Ndebele concurred with Adv Mohapi and added that the applicants no longer appeared to treat the matter with urgency and “they were in a comfort zone because they had an order protecting them”.
This was in reference to Justice Mahase’s 13 February order which barred the new NEC from office until the until the main application seeking the nullification of their election is finalised.
Adv Lehlohonolo Matee, who is also a lawyer for the respondents, also asked Justice Mahase “to hear the matter there and then so that public trust in the judiciary is boosted”.
The five lawyers for the respondents, (Advocates Ndebele, Hlaele, Mohapi, Matee and Khotso Nthontho) argue that the interim order barring their clients from office be set aside if the court was to postpone the matter. Alternatively, they argued that the case should be heard and finalised without further delays but their plea was thrown out.
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