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Masupha in major breakthrough


Senate-Masuphax380…As African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights agrees to hear her chieftainship challenge

Billy Ntaote

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has agreed to hear a case in which Senate Gabasheane Masupha is challenging Lesotho’s laws which barred her from succeeding her late father as chief due to her gender.

Inaugurated on 2 November 1987 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Commission’s Secretariat has since been moved to Banjul, The Gambia. In addition to performing any other tasks which may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Commission is officially charged with three major functions, namely the protection of human and peoples’ rights; promotion of human and peoples’ rights and interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Ms Masupha, Lesotho’S former Counsellor in Rome, has been fighting a protracted legal battle over the Chieftainship of Ha-‘Mamathe, Thupa-Kubu and Jorotane since her mother, Chieftainess Masenate Masupha,  passed away on 6 December 2008.

She had succeeded her husband as Principal Chief when he died in August 1996.

However, upon Masenate’s death, the family held a meeting on an unidentified date in February 2009 to discuss who would take over as Principal Chief. Ms Masupha did not attend the meeting during which Lepoqo Masupha was named the successor.

However, Ms Masupha argues despite being the first-born child of the late Chief’s first wife, she was not considered for the chieftainship on the sole basis of her gender.

In her communication with the Commission of 10 September 2014, Ms Masupha alleged Lesotho violated provisions of the African Charter and the Maputo Protocol of July 11 2003, by denying her the chieftainship.

Ms Masupha told the ACHPR that “since learning of my exclusion from being considered as chief on the sole basis of my gender, I actively and diligently sought the assistance of the courts in Lesotho and have exhausted all the domestic legal remedies available to me in an effort to vindicate my rights”.


On 17 April 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld that the Constitutional Court had been correct in ruling against Ms Masupha on 3 March 2013 because according to local traditions, a girl-child cannot succeed her father as chief.

However, at its 56th Ordinary Session held from April 21 – 7 May 2015 in Banjul, the ACHPR ruled that Ms Masupha’s chieftainship contest was “acceptable to be heard by the commission” and notified her about it through a letter dated 8 May 2015.

The Sunday Express understands the Lesotho Government on 22 May 2015 received a notice to respond to the matter within two months. However, the weekly could not immediately verify this with government.

But in her papers filed with the ACHPR, Ms Masupha argued even though Lesotho ratified the African Charter on 10 February 1992, she had fallen victim and “was precluded from being considered as a Chieftainess on the sole basis of her gender in 2009, almost some 18 years after the Kingdom of Lesotho ratified the African Charter…

“Thus the status quo has remained the same and to date, the victim is legally not able to become chief in Lesotho on the sole basis of her gender.”

Ms Masupha is being supported by the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Lesotho) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in her case.

Meanwhile, the Commission noted Ms Masupha had alleged violation of her right to non-discrimination; equality and equal protection of the law; dignity and not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; equal access to public service; property; access to health; culture; as well as the obligation to end discrimination against women and to reform discriminatory laws; the obligation to eliminate harmful practices; the right to participate in political and decision-making process; the right to equal economic opportunity; the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health; the right to live in a positive cultural context; and the right to equal inheritance.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Express was unable to get Ms Masupha’s comment yesterday.

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