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Controversy mars BNP indaba

Caswell Tlali

MASERU – Controversy marred the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s special conference to elect a substantive leader after one of the candidates filed an urgent court application disputing the constitutionality of the indaba.

Apart from the legal challenge, internal factionalism played out before the conference, forcing police to up security as reports swelled that a disgruntled group planned to mount violent attacks on delegates.

However, no violent incidents were reported by last night.

The conference proceeded after the High Court deferred Majara Molapo’s application to Wednesday.

This has left delegates in uncertainty because this weekend’s proceedings could become a farce if the court rules in Molapo’s favour.

Molapo briefly attended the conference, but was notably absent when candidates were called to the podium. The veteran politician wants the High Court to declare the conference null and void.

In an application filed on Friday afternoon, Molapo argued that two of the seven presidential aspirants, Thesele ’Maseribane and Ranthomeng Matete, should have stepped down from the party’s national executive committee before contesting.

’Maseribane is the acting leader following the ouster of Major General Metsing Lekhanya in December last year.

Matete is the general secretary.

Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi postponed the case prior to the holding of the conference because Molapo had not served court papers to other contestants – former National University of Lesotho professor Kopano Makoa, Puis Molapo, Mokheseng Tekateka and sole female contender ’Mabatloung Lillane.

On Friday, another judge, Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane, had refused to grant Molapo an interim order to stop the conference.

This gave Justice Monaphathi, who stood in for Justice Hlajoane, who was out of the country yesterday, grounds to let the conference continue.

“I do not want the conference to stop without very good reasons. If on Wednesday I find the applicant’s argument is a very good story then the court will declare the conference null and void,” Justice Monaphathi told Molapo’s lawyer, Thabang Khauoe.

Molapo also alleged in his application that several constituency committees around the country were elected clandestinely ahead of the conference to give an edge to his competitors.

These committees are responsible for nominating delegates to any general or special conference, according to the BNP constitution.

 “I have information which I verily believe to be true and correct that the same pattern of irregular invasions into constituencies has been the norm as irregular and unconstitutional committees have been imposed,” said Molapo in his application.

Molapo’s fears of unconstitutional committees surfaced at the conference hall when proceedings were delayed by five hours because many constituencies had sent two teams of delegates.

Old committees that believed they were unlawfully replaced sent their own delegates, while the new committees did the same, resulting in confusion.

Once in the hall, ’Maseribane went on the campaign trail, using his opening speech to hype his achievements since taking over from Lekhanya.

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