THE Lehakoe Recreation Centre Hall in Maseru reverberated with applauses and ululations to the announcement by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane that the party had resolved to abide by the appeal court order for Professor Nqosa Mahao to contest the deputy leader’s post.
Dr Thabane made the announcement at midnight going into Saturday morning. The elections are said to have started yesterday morning at about 4:30 am to accommodate Prof Mahao after the Friday night court order for his inclusion in the deputy leadership contest.
This followed the successful court application by Prof Mahao and the ABC’s Koro-koro Constituency Committee to the Court of Appeal to nullify the recent decisions of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to disqualify Prof Mahao and suspend the Koro-koro committee from office.
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 eventually 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 evening, the Court of Appeal bench comprising of its president and presiding judge, Kananelo Mosito and Acting Justices of Appeal, Phillip Musonda and Moses Chinhengo nullified the disqualification and the suspension. The justices said Prof Mahao’s disqualification could not be allowed to stand as it was made by an ABC NEC that was not properly constituted. It also ruled that the Koro-Koro committee’s null and void because the NEC acted outside its powers in suspending the committee.
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.
However, it was not a smooth-sailing affair for Prof Mahao and the Koro-Koro committee because it was not until midnight when they were finally able to deliver the court order to Dr Thabane who subsequently announced that Prof Mahao should be allowed to contest.
Immediately after the order was issued at about 7pm, the Koro-Koro committee rushed to Lehakoe Recreational Centre, the venue for the ABC’s elective conference but they were sent from pillar to post until about midnight when they were eventually allowed to deliver the court order to Dr Thabane.
Legislators, Fako Moshoeshoe (Mabote constituency), Sentje Lebona (Mohale’s Hoek), Nto Moakhi (Malibamatšo) and the Sello Mooki (Bobatsi) and Motebang Koma (Koro-Koro) walked to the high table and placed the court order in front of Dr Thabane minutes after he had entered the hall.
Even when he delivered his opening speech, Dr Thabane did not touch on the legal dispute or the court order that gave Prof Mahao the last-minute chance to contest in the elections.
Party sources told this publication that behind closed doors, Dr Thabane and the outgoing NEC were eventually forced to address the Prof Mahao issue by one of the Koro-Koro delegates who rose on a point of order.
“The Koro-Koro delegates had to stand on a point of order when they realised that Prof Mahao’s name did not appear on the ballot paper. The arguments on the matter went on until Ntate Thabane intervened. He read out the court order and welcomed the participation of Mahao,” a source said, adding that the party had to reprint the ballot papers to include Prof Mahao.
The elections are said to have started yesterday morning at about 4:30 am.
Another source added, “the voting started after 4:30 am after someone stood up with a point of order.
“This was after the outgoing committee tried to dodge the appeal court judgement in favour of Koro-Koro and Prof Mahao and go ahead with the elections as if nothing had happened. The ballot papers were immediately changed to include Prof Mahao after the compliance,” the source said.
Addressing the delegates behind closed doors, Dr Thabane is said to have told them he had received the court order setting aside the decisions of the NEC to suspend the Koro-Koro committee and disqualify Prof Mahao.
“In short, the court order is against our decision,” Dr Thabane said, adding they would have to comply with the court order and reinstate Prof Mahao and the Koro-Koro committee.
His announcement was met with ululations and cries of “thank you father” from the jubilant delegates.
The sources said Dr Thabane appeared to take exception to the jubilation that greeted the news of Prof Mahao and the Koro-Koro committee’s reinstatement.
“I must tell you and I need you to hear me properly and hear me good, I don’t work with a mob. I work with my respectful followers and this is why I need you to listen and hear me good when I speak with you. Why are you ululating when a serious matter like this one is being read? Why are you ululating when we had made a decision and there is now a court order?
“U oa tseba molilietsane oa qabanya (loosely translated to mean, ‘do you know that ululation can cause divisions between two people?).
“Accordingly, the Koro-Koro constituency committee is allowed to participate in the elective conference and nominate its candidate. The decisions of the national executive committee to reject the nomination of Nqosa Leuta Mahao is hereby set aside. Professor Nqosa Mahao is entitled to contest.
“Therefore, Ntate Nqosa Mahao and his supporters should not be discriminated against. We shouldn’t do anything that will cause them to say that they were cheated. Based on its founding principles, the ABC is a well-established, democratic organisation and this matter is therefore closed,” Dr Thabane said.
He however, said he was surprised that the party’s clause 5 (c) which prohibits members from taking the party to court without exhausting internal remedies was declared unconstitutional as the draft ABC constitution went through rigorous checks by competent lawyers being adopted.
He also pleaded with the delegates to ensure that the matter remained confidential, warning them that they should not leak closed door discussions to the media because “journalists’ primary objective is to sell newspapers and they don’t really care if this party collapses or not”.