MASERU — Two Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MPs have obtained an interim court order compelling the party’s national executive committee to call a special conference that seeks to oust the party leadership.
Acting High Court judge Gabriel Mofolo granted the temporary order on Friday following an urgent application by Rethabile Marumo, the MP for Mohobollo constituency and Tšoeu Mokeretla, who represents the Mashai constituency in parliament.
The youth league chairman for Maseru constituency, Ramahooana Matlosa, was also an applicant in the application that cited the national executive committee and LCD as respondents.
The three had approached the High Court to compel the executive committee to convene a special committee to discuss what they called urgent demands from the party’s 17 constituencies.
In February the constituencies submitted petitions demanding that the party convenes a special conference to decide the fate of the LCD’s entire leadership, including leader Pakalitha Mosisili and his deputy Lesao Lehohla, which they said they wanted booted out for alleged “incompetence” and “insubordination”.
They said they had lost confidence in Mosisili and his national executive.
That special conference, the constituencies argued, should also elect a new party treasurer following the resignation of Popane Lebesa last August after he was dismissed as trade minister.
When the executive committee refused to budge the two legislators and the youth leader approached the High Court, resulting in Friday’s interim order.
The applicants are from three of the 17 constituencies that have demanded the special indaba.
In his judgment Justice Mofolo said the national executive and the party should file its opposing papers before May 14 or else the interim order will be made final.
Those opposing papers, the judge said, should show reasons why “the first respondent (LCD national executive committee) shall not be directed to convene a special general conference of the second respondent (LCD) within 14 days hereof for purposes of deliberating on and resolving the issue of lack of confidence in the first respondent as requested by the 17 constituencies of the second respondent”.
The national respondents will also have to give reason why they should not convene the conference to elect a new party treasurer.
In his affidavit, Marumo, who is the first applicant, had argued that the decision to keep the LCD’s treasurer’s position vacant was a violation of the party’s constitution.
He said the executive committee had flatly refused to convene the special conference.
“The first respondent (executive committee) is clearly refusing to call a special general conference as requested by the 17 constituencies in stark violation of the constitution of the second respondent (LCD) to the prejudice of the applicants as members of the second respondent,” Marumo argued.
“They have taken more than the period required to have the vacancy filled. They keep on saying they will do it but they never do so. They ought to have convened an SGC (special general conference) to fill the position of the treasurer within three months of the vacancy occurring which they have not done to date”.
“This is a clear breach of the terms of the constitution which clearly indicates within what time this could be done”.
Marumo also said the special general conference should be convened because the party is in crisis as a result of divisions.
“I aver that we are bound to suffer irreparable harm if the NEC is not directed to comply with the constitution.
“This is more so because local government and national elections are fast approaching. It is clear that our party is now having serious divisions which can only be healed by the SGC.
She added: “We had been believing that the first respondent would consider the calling of the SGC sooner to unravel this problem but it is clear from their letter “RM5” that they are not prepared to call an SGC.
“The bickering and divisions within the party are fast deepening and I aver that this matter is one that deserves urgent relief in order to give the members of the second respondent an opportunity to address these differences in the light of facts outlined above.”
Marumo, Mokeretla and Matlosa’s application comes a month after five LCD members obtained a High Court order to block the special conference which had been called to oust the national committee.
The High Court upheld their argument that the letters submitted to the executive committee to call the special conference violated the LCD’s constitution.
The High Court ruled that the letters submitted by 26 constituencies contradicted the constitution because they sought to discuss the ouster of the executive committee while sparing party leader Mosisili and Lehohla.
This was when the 17 constituencies petitioned the executive committee in March but this time proposed the ouster of the entire committee.
The national executive committee has not yet filed its answering papers in court to support its opposition to the convening of the special conference.
Friday’s interim order comes two weeks after Mosisili warned LCD members to desist from dragging the party to courts of law.
He was addressing the LCD supporters who had marched to the State House to show him support and solidarity.
The case will be heard in court on May 13.
Observers have warned the internal strife that has rocked the party for the past year could lead to a split.
Insiders say the party is already unofficially split between a faction led by Mothetjoa Metsing, the communications minister who is also the executive committee’s secretary general and another led by Monyane Moleleki, the natural resource minister.
But both have strenuously denied links to the squabbling camps.
In public meetings, Mosisili himself has started admitting that his party is heading towards a split.