Police commissioner waits on court in ABC case
THE police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, and three others’ application to block Professor Nqosa Mahao and his All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s national executive committee (NEC) allies from holding a special conference failed to take off on Friday.
The case failed to proceed because the presiding judge, Justice Semapo Peete, was engaged in meetings with a visiting Commonwealth delegation of judicial officers. ABC spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, and several other pro-Mahao party members thronged the High Court and waited patiently for the case to begin, only for their lawyer, Advocate ‘Mabat?oeneng Hlaele, to emerge from the court chambers to inform that the case had been postponed to an unknown date.
“I have been informed that the case will not proceed due to a visit by a Commonwealth delegation that is currently meeting with the judges,” Adv Hlaele said, adding, she had been informed that a new date for the case would be communicated to them on Monday (tomorrow).
The case is probably of academic interest now that the special conference went ahead last Saturday.
Initially the Mahao faction approached the court on Friday 6 September 2019 after the police cancelled their permit to hold the special conference on 7 September 2019. The police, who had initially granted the permit on 5 September 2019, somersaulted and cancelled on the grounds that the conference, coming against the background of Prof Mahao and ABC leader and Prime Minister’s struggle for control of the ABC, posed a serious national security threat.
In their Friday 6 September 2019 petition, Prof Mahao, Lebohang Hlaele (ABC secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) asked the court to nullify the Maseru police’s decision to revoke their permit as they “had already incurred costs in relation to preparations for the said conference”.
“The applicants will suffer an irreparable harm if the meeting is not held as they have already made publications for the said meeting and expenses of preparing for the meeting have already been incurred such as transport for ABC constituency members who reside out of the country.
“There is no harm posed to social security nor any other prejudice that may be suffered should the meeting succeed. I aver that the decision to cancel the permit was contrary to section 5 of the Public Meetings and Processions Act 2010. The procedure of cancelling the permit is also not in compliance with Section 5 (2) of the mentioned act as there was no hearing given to the applicants nor their representatives for such cancellation,” Mr Hlaele stated in his founding affidavit.
The Maseru District Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Maseru City Council and the Attorney General were the respondents when Justice Peete granted the Mahao faction’s application to proceed with the conference at 10pm on 6 September 2019.
However, the tables turned on Saturday 7 September 2019 as the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli and other respondents became the applicants and petitioned the same court and same judge to block the special conference. Justice Peete went on to issue an interim order blocking the conference. The order was issued just after midday on 7 September 2019 in the absence of the Mahao camp who were already holding the conference at Lesotho High School in Maseru.
Justice Semapo Peete’s order called upon the respondents to “show cause if any why the execution of the court order granted on the 6th September 2019 at 22.00 hours (allowing the special conference to proceed) shall not be stopped pending finalisation (of the application to stop the special conference)”. Justice Peete resolved to hear the application on 13 September 2019.
However, the Saturday 7 September 2019 interim order came too late to stop the special conference. The conference was held to finality, albeit hurriedly, as the Mahao faction, who had caught wind of moves to block the conference, completed proceedings and dispersed from the Lesotho High School venue shortly before 2pm. They finished the conference before the court sheriff, Thato Mohale, arrived to serve them with the Saturday order blocking the conference.
The delegates resolved to suspend ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from the party for six years for alleged “uncomely behaviour” and sowing divisions within the fractious ruling party. He was suspended along with the party’s deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi.
The special conference also nullified the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of Prof Mahao, Messrs Hlaele, Rapapa, Masoetsa and Ms Doti.
Commissioner Molibeli and others’ pending court application is likely to be of academic interest as the conference has already been held. It remains to be seen how they will sustain their argument that the conference poses a threat to national security given that there has not been any visible security incident attributable to the conference during and after the conference.