Mahao, Koro-koro win appeal
- apex court rules that Mahao can contest ABC elections
- ruling sparks massive celebrations
PROFESSOR Nqosa Mahao on Friday won his appeal against his disqualification from contesting the deputy leader’s post in the ruling All Basotho Convention’s (ABC). There was also joy for the ABC’s Koro-koro Constituency Committee who won their appeal against their suspension by the party’s national executive committee (NEC) for fighting in Prof Mahao’s corner.
The rulings on the Prof Mahao and the Koro-koro committee were delivered at about 7pm in the Court of Appeal by its president, Kananelo Mosito, who presided over the case and was assisted by the Acting Justices of Appeal, Phillip Musonda and Moses Chinhengo.
The Court of Appeal justices further struck out clause 5(c) of the ABC Constitution which forbid members from suing the party in court without exhausting internal remedies.
The verdict was greeted with massive celebrations by the hordes of ABC supporters who rallied behind Prof Mahao and the Koro-koro committee in their bid to overturn a ruling by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase who had dismissed their case on Thursday evening.
The ruling cleared the way for Prof Mahao to contest the deputy leader’s position in the ABC’s NEC elections which began on Friday and ended yesterday in Maseru. It also cleared the way for the Koro-koro constituency to return to office after they were recently suspended by the party’s NEC for supporting Prof Mahao’s election bid.
Prof Mahao was nominated by the ABC’s Koro-Koro committee to contest the deputy leader’s post.
His name was thrown into the contest which also featured Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe and the then acting incumbent, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe.
Whoever wins will stand in good stead to eventually succeed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane when the latter eventually bows out as both leader of his party and country.
However, the ABC’s NEC disqualified Prof Mahao on the grounds that he had not served in the party structures for the required 36 months to be eligible to stand in the elections.
The Koro-Koro committee however, challenged the ABC’s decision in the High Court and lost the case on 13 January 2019.
The Koro-Koro committee subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal who subsequently referred the case back to the High Court. The High Court was expected to rule on the case last Tuesday and only did so on Thursday night with Justice Mahase throwing out the Koro-Koro committee’s appeal.
The Koro-Koro committee then appealed to the Court of Appeal on Friday, the very day that the ABC’s elective conference got underway.
And on Friday, Justice Mosito and his bench upheld Prof Mahao and the Koro-Koro committee’s appeal.
Reading the judgement to a fully packed Court of Appeal on Friday evening, Justice Mosito, said that they had come to a decision that Prof Mahao and the Koro-koro committee had a right to participate in the ABC’s NEC elective conference.
“We considered the matter and agreed that the ABC Koro-koro Constituency Committee was suspended by the ABC executive committee which is not vested with powers to suspend the committee therefore this means that its decision cannot stand,” Justice Mosito said.
“The nomination of Nqosa Mahao was rejected by the NEC which was improperly constituted. Three of its high-ranking officials were conflicted in that they are competing in the current elections. That decision (of the NEC) must be set aside. Section 5(c) of ABC Constitution is unconstitutional to extent that it prohibits members of the party from exercising their right of going to court, therefore it is struck out.
“We order that the NEC decision to suspend Koro-koro from participating in the elective conference be set aside. The decision of NEC to reject the Koro-koro constituency’s nomination of Nqosa Mahao as their candidate to contest for the deputy leadership position is also set aside. Koro-koro is entitled to nominate its candidate. Nqosa Mahao is entitled to contest in the elective conference.”
The ruling marked a victorious ending to what had been a frustrating week for Prof Mahao and the Koro-koro committee. The ending could even be sweeter if Prof Mahao were to win the elections.
His and the Koro-koro committee’s supporters attended and prayed before every court session, including the night time session when their case was dismissed on Thursday in the High Court by the Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo Mahase.
The Friday appeal at the apex court began with Advocate Letlatsa Letompa informing the court that he was standing in for the Mosotho Attorneys as both Advocate Tumisang Mosotho nor Advocate Ranale Thoahlane who had previously represented the respondents were not available. He said he had received the notice of the Koro-koro committee’s appeal at 8am on Friday but he had not received any instructions from the aforementioned lawyers on which steps to take.
Justice Mosito would not have any of Adv Letompa’s excuses gave him 10 minutes to contact Adv Mosotho and Adv Thoahlane and tell them that the court would proceed with or without them. When the 10 minutes deadline lapsed Adv Letompa maintained that he could not find either Adv Mosotho or Adv Thoahlane.
Justice Mosito then told Adv Letompa that the Assistant Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Advocate Mosito Rabotsoa, had taken the initiative to call Adv Thoahlane who said he was “tired from High Court proceedings” of the previous night.
Adv Nthontho was left to argue the applicants’ case uncontested after Adv Letompa recused himself saying that he would not argue a matter he knew nothing about.
Adv Nthontho submitted that the Koro-koro committee was suspended by a body which had no powers to act in that manner while Prof Mahao was disqualified by an NEC which comprised of conflicted persons.
Hordes of Koro-koro committee and Prof Mahao supporters waited with great anticipation for the matter to be finalised. There was a two-hour break from 5.30pm until after 7pm to allow the three judges to prepare a typed judgement.
During that period some of the Koro-koro committee and Prof Mahao supporters who were sensing victory went out of the courtroom to change into their ABC regalia. Others telephoned their colleagues who had gathered at the AME Hall near the main traffic circle to tell them to prepare a vehicle convoy to head to the Lehakoe Recreation Club where the ABC elective conference had started.
The verdict was greeted with massive celebrations which included ululating, whistling and the playing of ABC music from loud car speakers.
The crowd also mobbed Adv Nthontho, taking turns to shake his hand for the sterling job in representing the applicants.
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