MASERU — Drama and accusations of backstabbing characterised the Law Society of Lesotho’s annual conference on Friday.
The tussle was between Law Society president Zwelakhe Mda and his deputy Molefi Ntlhoki.
Both men were vying for the post of president.
Mda, who seemed to be in an offensive mood, took the podium first and immediately launched a veiled attack against Ntlhoki although he did not mention him by name.
He said a “senior colleague” in the council had “betrayed” the Law Society when he allowed his wife to benefit from the government’s controversial vehicle scheme.
Ministers and other senior government officials were sold their official vehicles at book value in 2006 in a controversial scheme that sparked a public uproar.
Mda said the Law Society had warned its members to stay out of that controversial scheme but the “senior colleague” could be seen driving around in his wife’s car.
Although Mda did not mention names it was clear he was referring to Ntlhoki, whose wife was an acting principal secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs when the scheme was implemented.
“He betrayed and embarrassed the Law Society when he became a beneficiary through his spouse who got the vehicle,” Mda charged.
“He drove it openly and betrayed the society’s cause.”
At that point Ntlhoki could not take it anymore.
He rose from his seat and tried to raise a point of order.
“Order, order, order Mr Mda,” said Ntlhoki as he waved his finger at Mda.
But Mda would have none of it and instead he told Ntlhoki that he should not interfere because he still had the floor.
“Order, order, order, I am still addressing,” Mda said in response to Ntlhoki.
When Ntlhoki returned to his seat Mda continued his stinging attack but still avoided mentioning names.
The “senior colleague”, Mda said, was backstabbing and engaging in dirty campaign tactics.
“The campaign typified a political campaign and backstabbing,” he said.
At that point advocate Qhalehang Letsika complained that they had not come to the conference to discuss personal issues.
He was supported by Moshoeshoe Mokaloba, an attorney.
Ntlhoki tried to speak again but he was stopped by another senior lawyer, Thulo Mahlakeng, who pleaded with him to let Mda finish his address because his chance would come.
Mda’s attack moved a gear up.
He said the “senior colleague” had abruptly resigned from the commission set up by the Law Society to look into the administration of justice in the country.
Ntlhoki resigned as chairman of the commission before it could conclude its inquiry.
“He resigned thus crippling the mission of the commission,” Mda said.
When Ntlhoki eventually took the floor he fired back at Mda.
“Why do you make a fuss when my wife has been given a vehicle by government?” Ntlhoki asked Mda.
“My wife never asked for that vehicle. She was given that vehicle by the government.”
Ntlhoki reminded Mda that he was more senior than him in the legal profession.
Ntlhoki said Mda was making the allegations about backstabbing because he was afraid of competition.
“It is not true that people do not campaign for elections,” he said.
“Even you (Mda) are here today as the president because of the campaign.”
“In fact I was campaigning for you!” Ntlhoki added, pointing at Mda.
Then he went for the kill.
He said he was surprised Mda had not told the conference that he allegedly claimed fuel money from the Law Society for his frequent trips between his home in Mafeteng and Maseru.
Mda stays in Mafeteng, his home town, but has to come to Maseru to attend the High Court and other businesses including Law Society affairs.
Later in an interview Ntlhoki told the Sunday Express that he had resigned from the commission after a clash with Mda.
He said Mda kept pushing him to end the inquiry saying most of the witnesses were saying the same things.
“I refused saying that the commission must include everybody including those in the districts even though we did not have money,” Ntlhoki said.
He said when Mda insisted he resigned.
When the election time came Mda claimed a narrow victory with 30 votes against Ntlhoki’s 29.
Monaheng Rasekoai beat Mosoeunyane Masiphole by six votes to become the deputy president.
Tšeliso Mokoko retained his position as the secretary-general.
Thato Kholoane defeated three candidates for the treasurer’s position.
Habofanoe ‘Mabathoana shook off a challenge from two candidates to become a member of the council.