SENIOR High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi on Friday issued an order to stop the inauguration of Chief Thato Mohale as the Principal Chief of Tajane, Pontšeng and Ramoetsana pending finalisation of a case that is before the High Court.
Justice Monaphathi ordered the suspension of the inauguration – which was supposed to be held on Friday – because there is a pending case in which the principal chieftainship of the area is being contested by ‘Mako Mohale and Chief Thato Mohale.
He also declared the gazette issued in May by King Letsie III — in accordance with the advice of the Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs, Dr Pontšo Sekatle — nominating Chief Thato Mohale as the Principal Chief of Tajane, Pontšeng and Ramoetsana, null and void and of no legal force.
The gazette was made in May despite the existence of the pending appeal.
Chief Mohale had been nominated to succeed his father who held the office until he died on 20 November 2014.
However, Mr Mohale filed an urgent application in the High Court last Monday to stop the inauguration citing a pending appeal at the High Court against Chief Mohale’s nomination filed on 26 February this year.
It was on these grounds that Justice Monaphathi on Friday stopped the inauguration and nullified the gazette to enable the court processes to decide over the dispute on the succession.
Said Justice Monaphathi: “This is an unfortunate case in that the installation of the first respondent (Chief Mohale) had to be made today (Friday). I believe there were preparations made.
“Simply put, we have a case whereby the chieftainship of Tajane has been in contention for more than a year and there is confusion in the community and people involved.”
He said in terms of the Chieftainship Act of 1968 the family nominates the successor in the chieftainship seat.
“The family has the role and it played it. The family’s choice ended up with the minister.
“The minister made the gazette and it is the one that is being challenged now and this includes challenging the decision of the family. This court is not concerned about this issue.
“Here I am concerned about publication of the gazette and there is a question; ‘why did the minister make the gazette when she knew there is a pending case?’
“Unfortunately the minister did not make any explanation why she did so in full knowledge of what the law enjoins her what to do.”
Dr Sekatle is cited as the forth respondent in the proceedings but she did not file an opposing affidavit.
The judge expressed concern Mr Mohale did not file the case timeously to challenge the gazette.
Justice Monaphathi ordered: “I am not intending awarding costs although the application succeeds. The application succeeds.”
The judge said a fresh gazette would be made after the dispute on the chieftainship succession had been finalised before the courts of law.