MASERU — The High Court on Friday set aside a decision by the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) executive committee to bar prominent lawyer Haae Phoofolo from attending party conferences at branch level.
The decision has now paved the way for Phoofolo to contest party primary elections that would give him the right to represent the ABC in the Maseru Central constituency in this year’s general election expected in May.
The High Court decision was the climax of a court case that began last December after the ABC’s national executive committee wrote a letter to the Maseru constituency committee directing that Phoofolo should be barred from attending party conferences.
Phoofolo filed an urgent application at the High Court where he argued the committee’s decision to bar him from attending conferences at branch level was meant to sabotage his campaign to contest the general election under the ABC banner.
In his ruling on Friday, High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete set aside the committee’s decision saying Phoofolo had been unfairly treated because he had not been given a hearing before the decision was made.
Justice Peete declared a letter written by the ABC’s secretary general Thabiso Litšiba barring Phoofolo from attending conferences at branch level null and void.
“The ABC’s secretary general (Thabiso Litšiba) merely says the applicant was not suspended but his rights are simply limited,” Justice Peete said.
“He doesn’t say whether he was given a hearing or not.”
The judge said the executive committee had acted in bad faith when it failed to give Phoofolo an opportunity to respond to the allegations before it decided to punish him.
“A political party is a voluntary association in which people should be treated fairly,” Justice Peete added.
The ABC barred Phoofolo after Maseru Central constituency chairman, Futho Hoohlo, complained that Phoofolo had insulted him at the party’s special conference in August last year.
He alleged that Phoofolo had told him that he was behaving as if the ABC was his mother’s party.
Phoofolo however denied the allegations.
Hoohlo also accused Phoofolo of disrupting the ABC rally at Katlehong on November 27.
The executive committee’s letter said Phoofolo should not attend meetings at branch level while investigations continued against him regarding the allegations raised by Hoohlo.
There had been speculation that Phoofolo was not in good books with ABC top officials.
Friday’s judgment however means that Phoofolo is now free to campaign for the ticket to represent the ABC in Maseru Constituency.
Phoofolo’s battle against Hoohlo has not ended.
It is understood that Hoohlo, like Phoofolo, also wants to be the ABC candidate for the Maseru Central constituency.
Hoohlo, a civil engineer, is understood to have already started campaigning.
Apart for their political battle the two will also meet in court in a case in which Phoofolo is suing Hoohlo and ABC executive committee for defamation.
Phoofolo wants Hoohlo to pay M500 000 in damages for making false allegations against him at a party meeting.
He wants the ABC to pay him M750 000 in damages for allegedly soiling his name.
On Saturday evening Phoofolo said he has now resumed his campaign to win the primaries.
He said he was happy that the High Court had “clear explained the ABC constitution for all to understand”.
“Although the constitution might be unclear the law of the land is clear that you cannot suspend someone’s rights without giving them a fair hearing,” Phoofolo said.
“I am happy that the leadership and other members of the party now understand this fact.”
He said he was now campaigning to win the primaries and unite party members in the constituency.
“My case fragmented the party in this constituency. I want to unite the ABC members in this constituency behind one leader and one philosophy. I am trying to bring unite and reconciliation.”
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