MASERU — Macaefa Billy is not the rightful leader of the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) and should not be representing the party in parliament.
That is what the LWP’s former deputy leader, ‘Mats’epo Lehlokoana, told the High Court on Friday in a case in which she is challenging Billy’s legitimacy as the party’s leader.
Lehlokoana wants the court to compel Billy to step down, relinquish party property and stop claiming to be an LWP member because the party allegedly expelled him in 2004 when the battle over the soul of the workers’ party started.
Billy and Lehlokoana were once good friends and comrades in the labour movement.
Billy was the leader of the LWP while Lehlokoana was his deputy.
Together, they had led the party since its formation in 2001.
Then in February 2004 relations soured and a bitter brawl over power ensued.
LWP secretary-general Isaac Makoa handed Billy a letter informing him that he had been dismissed as the party’s leader and expelled from the party.
In that letter, dated February 23 2004, Makoa accused Billy of contravening the party constitution and dipping his hands into party coffers.
In her court papers, Lehlokoana alleges that instead of complying with the “order” to step down Billy worked with his faction to secretly amend the constitution to insulate himself from both expulsion and removal as party leader.
The amended constitution was registered on March 25 2004 and it cited Billy as the legitimate LWP leader.
The anti-Billy faction, under Lehlokoana’s leadership, approached the High Court in 2006 seeking an order to compel Billy “together with his agents to cease to do all political and other activities and/or business under the names and/or pretext of the plaintiffs (LWP and its executive committee)”.
They also wanted the court to compel Billy and his faction to surrender party property and funds.
Lehlokoana says she was elected the LWP leader in 2004 after Billy’s alleged expulsion.
But when the case opened at the High Court on Thursday, Billy vehemently denied allegations that he had been expelled from the party and stripped of his position.
Billy told the High Court that Lehlokoana and her faction had no legal capacity to sue on behalf of the party because they were not legitimate members of the executive committee.
Billy said the only legitimate LWP committee was the one he led.
“It is also not correct that I was expelled from the party,” Billy said.
“Therefore these people who instituted these court proceedings on behalf of the Lesotho Workers Party do not have the legal capacity.”
He said Lehlokoana and her faction were relying on the constitution which was registered in 2001 while ignoring the fact that it was amended in 2004.
“I am still the leader in terms of the Lesotho Workers Party’s amended constitution,” Billy said.
He also said the High Court should dismiss his accusers’ case because they had withheld some crucial information from the court.
“For instance, they did not disclose to the court that they formed a new committee when another committee, in which I was a leader, still existed.”
He said they had not disclosed that the party had two factions that were operating in different offices.
Billy’s lawyer, Advocate Seeiso Rasekoai, told the court that the fact that Lehlokoana’s faction had not disclosed crucial information was sufficient ground for the court to throw out the case.
He also said he did not believe the High Court had jurisdiction to hear the case.
“This case should have been lodged in the magistrate’s court. If we succeed on these special pleas I submit that it should be the end of this case,” Rasekoai said.
Lehlokoana looked unsettled when she took the witness stand when the case resumed on Friday.
When asked by Rasekoai whether she could dispute that Billy was representing the LWP in parliament, she replied: “Yes, he is in parliament but he doesn’t represent the Lesotho Workers Party.”
Her answer prompted Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane to ask a follow-up question saying: “’M’e ‘Mats’epo, do you know that the Lesotho Workers Party is represented in parliament?”
“No!” she replied.
The LWP has 10 lawmakers in parliament following its alliance with the main opposition All Basotho Convention party.
However the alliance has since been dissolved.
Lehlokoana insisted that Billy was expelled from the party in 2004.
She however said her faction was not allowed to hand the letter of dismissal to Billy because his lawyer, Rasekoai, intervened.
Lehlokoana argued that the LWP’s constitution was, in fact, not amended but a new constitution was made because the amended constitution does not state which clauses of the main constitution were amended.
The case continues on August 30 when the lawyers are expected to address the court on whether or not Lehlokoana and her team have the legal capacity to sue on behalf of the LWP.