Mahao, Hlaele attack chief justice
- duo warns judges to stay out of politics
- says the judges to blame if govt collapses
Moorosi Tsiane/ Pascalinah Kabi
PROFESSOR Nqosa Mahao and former Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights minister Lebohang Hlaele have come out guns blazing against the High Court for the long delay in finalising the case in which three legislators from the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) are seeking the nullification of their election to the ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).
The attacks were launched at their last weekend rally in Maputsoe.
The case, which was filed by three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung constituency), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe), was supposed to be heard on 20 March and the verdict delivered on 29 March but it has been postponed on several occasions since then.
It was first postponed on the 20th of March when one of the defendants’ lawyers, Advocate Ranale Thoahlane called in sick. It was postponed on the 25th of March 2019 again after the presiding judge, Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase also reported that she was ill.
And at his recent rally in Maputsoe, Prof Mahao warned that by delaying to finalise the case, the judges were inadvertently exacerbating the instability in the ABC and this could even lead to a collapse of the government.
He said in the event of the collapse of the government and the calling of fresh polls, the judges would have to shoulder some of the blame due to their inexplicable delay in finalising the case that was brought before them by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
The three ABC legislators filed a case in the High Court challenging the results of the ABC’s elective conference which ushered in Prof Mahao as the deputy leader, Mr Hlaele as the secretary general and many others to various positions in the party’s NEC.
The trio argue that the elections were marred by vote rigging and they want the High Court to nullify Prof Mahao, Mr Hlaele and the rest of the new NEC’s victory and order fresh polls within three months of the finalisation of their application.
Prof Mahao told the ABC supporters in Maputsoe that the trio’s case was filed as an urgent application and it ought to have been treated as such by Justice Mahase.
“When this case was filed it was an urgent application and this is why all procedures of filing an urgent application were followed. But surprisingly, it is always being postponed when the court is supposed to sit. An urgent application has to be treated as an urgent application, period.
“If there is going to be no stability in this country just because courts of law are failing to resolve this matter within the ABC, then it will be clear that our courts would have had a hand in destabilising this country.”
Prof Mahao called on the judges to stay out of politics and remain professional in the execution of their duties.
He further called on the politicians to stop interfering with the operations of the courts of law.
“Judges should work professionally and stay out of politics. And in the same manner, the politicians should stop interfering with courts of law and allow them to carry out their work to deliver justice.”
Prof Mahao also called on the ABC factions to urgently resolve their differences and save the country from an ABC and government collapse that would precipitate snap elections. If the elections were to be held, they would be the fourth in the space of seven years, following elections in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
“In 2012 we (ABC) were in the first coalition government which lasted only for two years and in 2015 we went for snap elections because there was no longer stability in government. In the 2015 election, Basotho elected a new government and even that government had its own problems which forced it to call for snap elections in 2017 and we were voted back into power. All the money that has been used for elections it could have been used to create many jobs.
“This issue of other ABC faction refusing to leave office even though ABC members elected a new committee will lead to a point where there is no stability in our government and we could go for snap elections again. Many people suspect that the rallies that we are holding are in preparation for fresh elections but as leaders, we should feel for this nation, dedicate ourselves to serving the people and stop chasing our own agendas. This issue of the old NEC refusing to hand over the keys (of the ABC party’s offices) to the new NEC makes us wonder what kind of people we are as Basotho,” Prof Mahao said.
Mr Hlaele was even more scathing in his criticism of the judiciary and in particular, Acting Chief Justice Mahase, who he suggested had feigned illness so that she could delay hearing the case.
Mr Hlaele told supporters at the rally that he was already aware that Justice Mahase might call in sick just to drag the case.
“There are rumours that Justice Mahase is going to get sick on Thursday so that the case doesn’t continue.
“She has been ordered to get sick we know it. The reason being that the case be postponed because they don’t want it to proceed. This is how things are done here in Lesotho, people in power are abusing it and want to control our courts of law,” Mr Hlaele said
This is not the first time that Justice Mahase has found herself in the eye of a storm over allegations of delaying court proceedings. On 29 January 2019, Justice Mahase was involved in heated exchanges with the audience who heckled her over her perceived tardiness in handling the ABC’s Koko-Koro Constituency Committee’s case against the disqualification of Prof Mahao from the party’s leadership elections.
On that day, the visibly irate Justice Mahase threatened to eject the hecklers from the courtroom and proceed with the case with only the media in attendance.
She was later involved in more dramatic exchanges with the lawyers of the defendants in a lawsuit which was brought by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane seeking the nullification of the results of the party’s NEC elections.
Justice Mahase was livid with the lawyers who she accused of undermining her authority. This was after they disobeyed her order to appear in her chambers in the same case.