- as ABC case drags on in the High Court
THE defendants’ lawyers in the case in which three All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislators are seeking the nullification of the party’s 1 and 2 February 2019 election results have expressed frustration over the continuous postponement of the case.
Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, who is presiding over the case in which Ministers Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry), Keketso Sello (Mining) and the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane are seeking the nullification of the ABC’s elective conference, once again postponed the matter to 16 April 2019 when she will hear the arguments.
The Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane on 11 February 2019 filed a High Court application seeking the nullification of the election of Prof Mahao and others to the party’s national executive committee (NEC). They also want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.
Prof Mahao polled 693 votes to clinch the deputy leader’s contest ahead of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro (546 votes), former acting incumbent, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe (245 votes) and outgoing party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe (97 votes) at the ABC’s elective conference in Maseru from 1 to 2 February 2019.
Lebohang Hlaele, the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs secured 618 votes to wrestle the secretary general’s post from the former incumbent Samonyane Ntsekele who polled 422 votes.
In the chairperson’s election, Mosalemane constituency legislator Samuel Rapapa polled 829 votes to beat Senator Kemiso Mosenene (380 votes), Defence and National Security minister Tefo Mapesela (239 votes), Lithoteng legislator Lehlohonolo Moramotse (71 votes) and Maliepetsana legislator Mpalipali Molefe (43 votes).
The LCN announced the rest of the new NEC line-up as follows: Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).
However, Prof Mahao and the rest of the winners have not been able to take up their positions in the party’s NEC due to the lawsuit by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
The ABC, the ABC’s NEC, the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), Prof Mahao and other candidates in the ABC polls are cited as the first to 44th respondents in the lawsuit. The LCN are cited in their capacity as the organisation that ran the polls on behalf of the ABC and announced the new NEC line-up.
And on Thursday, the respondents’ lawyers said that the case was filed as an urgent application but it has not been treated in that regard.
One of the lawyers, Advocate Patsa Mohapi, appealed to Justice Mahase to make a judgement based on the papers they filed before court and not hear arguments of petitioners and defendants’ lawyers.
“My lady, since you have read our heads of argument which we filed a month ago, we humbly request the court to look at our papers and make a ruling based on them,” Adv Mohapi said.
“This is a simple case and the applicants do not stand to suffer any prejudice. We are tired of coming here today, tomorrow or next month. I think you are also tired of this matter.”
Another defendants’ lawyer, Advocate “Mabat?oeneng Hlaele, echoed similar sentiments saying that all they have to address the court about is entailed in their submissions.
“Our heads of argument were filed on 21 February (2019) and we are on 11 April now. There is nothing which will be argued outside what we have already filed before this court. This case is draining so may you please make a ruling based on our heads of argument,” Adv Hlaele said.
However, Advocate Ranale Thoahlane, who is also representing defendants, begged to differ asking the court to hear their arguments.
“This is the first time I am hearing of this request. Speaking on behalf of the clients I represent, we would like to address the court regarding our arguments.”
Justice Mahase eventually postponed the matter to 16 April 2019 when she said she will hear the arguments.
Since the matter was filed, it has been postponed multiple times. Firstly it was on 13 February when Justice Mahase granted an interim order barring the newly elected ABC’s NEC from assuming the office until the main application seeking the nullification of their election is finalised.
On 22 February, Justice Mahase again postponed the case to 6 March 2019 to give herself time to go through the affidavit from the applicants’ lawyer, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, which she said she only received the previous day.
However, on that day the applicants and defendants made a plea to settle out of court. Justice Mahase then made an order giving the two NEC factions up to 19 March to resolve their differences failing which they would have to return to court on 20 March.
The two factions returned to court on 20 March after the talks collapsed but Justice Mahase postponed the matter to 25 March 2019 after Adv Thoahlane called in sick. Justice Mahase also extended the order barring the new NEC from assuming office to 25 March 2019 and this means that the old NEC will continue to run party affairs until then.
On 25 March, Justice Mahase also called in sick and stood down the matter to 2 April 2019. On that date she postponed the matter to last Thursday only to further postpone it to 16 April 2019.