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Another lawsuit against Mahao

…as ABC power struggle intensifies

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE bruising fight for the control of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) is set to intensify this week amid revelations that another lawsuit will be filed on Wednesday to challenge the outcome of the party’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao.

An ABC member, Motseki Lefera, who voted at the elective conference on behalf of the Mechachane constituency in Butha-Buthe, last week filed a notice of motion in the High Court indicating that he intends to file a lawsuit seeking the nullification of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) elections. The application, which will be filed this week on Wednesday, is the second such seeking to nullify the polls.

The first application, whose judgement is expected to be delivered on Friday, was filed before Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase by ABC cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Local Government and Chieftainship), Keketso Sello (Mining) and ABC legislator, Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe constituency).

“Please kindly note that an application will be made before this honourable court (High Court) on 27 March 2019 at 9.30am or thereafter…that the proceedings and outcome of the elective conference of the All Basotho Convention party held on 1 and 2 February be declared null and void,” Mr Lefera states in his brief notice of motion.

Mr Lefera is represented by Advocate Thulo Hoeane while the outgoing ABC’s NEC and the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) are the first and second respondents respectively.

The outgoing ABC’s NEC are cited in their capacity as the organisers of the polls whose outcome has been hotly disputed and has led to a damaging fall-out which threatens to split the party and even lead to the collapse of the coalition government in which the ABC is the main partner. The LCN is cited in its capacity as the organisation that ran the polls on behalf of the ABC and announced the new NEC line-up.

In the aftermath of the polls, the LCN announced Prof Mahao as the winner of the hotly contested deputy leader’s post ahead of more seasoned ABC politicians, Finance Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

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 office due to resistance from the old NEC as well as the 11 February 2019 court challenge by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.

The trio want the court to nullify the outcome of the February elections and order fresh polls within three months of their application.

Mr Lehana contested and lost the polls for the deputy secretary general’s post which was won by Health minister Nkaku Kabi.

Mr Sello contested and lost the election for the treasurer’s post which was won by Tlali Mohapi.

The trio warned of “chaos and bloodshed” if the outcome of the polls is not reversed.

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 44threspondents in the lawsuit.

Justice Mahase is expected to deliver judgement in the trio’s application on Friday.

In her 6 March 2019 court order, Justice Mahase had given the two NEC factions up to 19 March to resolve their differences through dialogue failing which they would have to return to court yesterday on 20 March.

However, the talks failed to kick-off as the old and newly elected NECs refused to budge from their respective positions. The old NEC had demanded that Prof Mahao should step down from the deputy leader’s post which he won at the February elective conference as a precondition to allowing the rest of the new NEC to assuming office. The new NEC refused to accept the demand hence the cancellation of the talks and the resumption of the hearing of the court application by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).

Last Wednesday, the case failed to kick off with Justice Mahase postponing the matter to 25 March 2019 after one of the respondents’ lawyers, Advocate Ranale Thoahlane called in sick. Justice Mahase also extended the order barring the new NEC from assuming office to 25 March 2019 and this means that the old NEC will continue to run party affairs until then.

The other respondents’ lawyers queried Adv Thoahlane’s sick note, arguing that it was a fraudulent and meant to delay the hearing of the case. Despite their protestations, Justice Mahase accepted the sick note and postponed the case.

Adv Thoahlane’s office served the court and the counsels for both sides with letters informing them that he had been involved in a car accident on 14 March 2019 and was therefore was unfit to appear before the court. Later that day, he served them with a doctor’s note indicating that he (Thoahlane) had been sick since 14 March when he suffered an accident.

“We kindly request that this honourable court postpone the matter because our Advocate Thoahlane was involved in an accident on 14 March 2019 on his way to Bela-Bela to the funeral of Justice (Maseshophe) Hlajoane,” part of the letter reads.

One of the defendants’ lawyers, ‘Mabat?oeneng Hlaele, argued that the sick note was fake and part of a strategy to frustrate the case. Ms Hlaele who is the daughter of Prime Minister Thabane and wife of one of the defendants, Mr Hlalele, who won the secretary general’s post, urged the court to disregard the sick note and proceed with the case. This was to no avail as Justice Mahase postponed the case to tomorrow to give Adv Thoahlane time to recover.

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