Hlaele ultimatum to JSC: impeach Mahase or face lawsuit
ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary general Lebohang Hlaele has written to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) demanding that it urgently sets up a tribunal to impeach Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase over her alleged impropriety in the handling of cases relating to the power struggle in the fractious ruling party.
Mr Hlaele whose faction of the party’s national executive committee (NEC), has been locked in a bitter struggle for control of the ruling party with the ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane as well as some members of the party’s old NEC since February, penned a highly charged letter to the JSC alleging that the overall conduct of Justice Mahase in all the cases involving the ABC warrants swift disciplinary action to be taken against the top judge.
He alleged that he had discovered that in her improper conduct, Justice Mahase went as far as secretly corresponding with Dr Thabane over a matter in which the latter was a litigant.
Mr Hlaele’s grievances date back to Justice Mahase’s alleged tardiness in handling the 11 February 2019 case which was brought before her by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung constituency), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe). The trio approached the High Court seeking the nullification of the election of Mr Hlaele, Professor Nqosa Mahao and others into the ABC’s NEC at the party’s February elective conference. Justice Mahase postponed the case on several occasion and before finalising it, she even went on to issue judgement in another separate but similar application that was brought against the holding of the ABC’s elective conference by the trio of little-known ABC members, Motseki Lefera, ’Matumisang Ntiisa and Martha Makhohlisa.
Justice Mahase’s judgement, which nullified the elective conference, sparked controversy especially as the trio did not cite the Mahao camp in their application. Justice Mahase granted the order despite her repeated failure to preside over the initial application brought before her by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane. Her entire conduct earned her sharp rebuke from the Court of Appeal.
More recently on 5 July 2019, Justice Mahase was once again at the centre of controversy after she refused to hear in the open court the ABC case in which Dr Thabane and deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi petitioned the High Court to bar the special conference which Mr, Hlaele, Prof Mahao and their allies had planned to hold on 6 July.
Justice Mahase issued an interim order barring Prof Mahao and his allies from holding the special conference which could have led to the expulsion of Dr Thabane who they “suspended” along with other senior party officials for allegedly undermining their authority as the national executive committee and bringing the party into disrepute.
The order was granted to Dr Thabane and Mr Kabi as a default judgement due to the absence of the Mahao camp’s lawyers who boycotted in protest over Justice Mahase’s refusal to hear the matter in an open court. The Mahao camp was represented by the trio of Advocates Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Mabat?oeneng Hlaele.
It was against the background of these adverse judgements and alleged procedural flaws that Mr Hlaele on 5 July wrote to the JSC demanding action against Justice Mahase. He demanded action within three days of the receipt of his letter, failing which he would sue the JSC.
He said the overall conduct of Justice Mahase in all cases involving the ABC warrants “prompt and swift action to be undertaken against the learned judge”.
“I strongly contend that the learned judge has clearly put the entire judiciary into disrepute and I am prepared to give evidence under oath in motivation of this complaint. I am also prepared to tender comprehensive affidavits of other parties who were witnesses to all the transgressions of the learned judge in the recent cases involving the ABC.
“On the account of the urgency of this matter I expect a formal response from the Judicial Service Commission within a period of three days failing which I shall be forced to approach a court of law for a writ of mandamus,” Mr Hlaele states. A writ of mandamus is a court order to any government body, government official, or a lower court requiring that the body, official, or court perform an act that is its official duty in terms of the law.
Mr Hlaele’s ultimatum to the JSC comes against the background of moves by Dr Thabane to have Court of Appeal President Justice Kananelo Mosito suspended and impeached over his alleged interference with the administrative powers of Justice Mahase when the apex court entertained appeals by the Mahao faction against her judgements in the ABC cases.
Dr Thabane moved to suspend Justice Mosito after Justice Mahase complained that the apex court had undermined her powers by entertaining the appeals without leave from her to do so. On 5 July 2019, Dr Thabane wrote to Justice Mosito demanding that he “shows cause” why he should not be suspended for undermining Justice Mahase.
And in his letter to the JSC, Mr Hlaele states that, “it will readily be seen that in the aforementioned correspondence, the Acting Chief Justice openly complains about the irregular manner in which a case which involves me and some other litigants was decided by full bench of the Apex Court of the land.
“Regrettably, I was not copied the relevant letter in spite of my apparent peculiar interest. To my utter shock and dismay the same reasons advanced by the Acting Chief Justice have been echoed by the Prime Minister in a show-cause letter aimed at suspending the President of the Court of Appeal (Justice Kananelo Mosito).”
Justice Mahase has been on the receiving end of relentless attacks by the Mahao faction over her controversial handling of cases in relation to the ongoing power struggle in the ABC.
Mr Hlaele recently branded the ACJ a “politician” and “card-carrying member of the ABC” who had used her position as judge to emasculate the Mahao camp.
The tough-talking Mr Hlaele, who is also son-in law to Dr Thabane, however said they will not be intimidated by anyone including the premier, the army or the police.
He said they would eventually “win the political battle” which they were currently fighting against Dr Thabane and the former national executive committee (NEC) which continued to resist their February 2019 election as the party’s new NEC.