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ABC headed for “chaos and bloodshed”

…warns two ministers as they seek reversal of the ruling party’s election results.

Pascalinah Kabi/Nat Molomo

TWO cabinet ministers who contested and lost in the recent All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s national executive committee (NEC) elections have warned of “chaos and bloodshed” if the outcome of the polls is not reversed.

The ministers want the court to cancel the outcome of the party’s elective conference and order fresh polls failing which they warn of serious bloodshed as warring factions try to win control of the ruling party.

The tone of their application is nonetheless being interpreted as a desperate attempt to threaten the courts into ruling in their favour to avoid bloodshed, a development one lawyer described as “grossly unfortunate” yesterday.

“When you go to court, you state your case based on facts that you present. You don’t tell judges that you should rule in this or that manner to avoid bloodshed. It’s tantamount to holding the courts to ransom as what you are essentially telling the judges is that if you don’t get your way, you will cause bloodshed….,” said a lawyer who asked for  anonymity for professional reasons.

The ministers are Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining). Mr Lehana contested and lost the polls for the deputy secretary general’s post which was won by Health minister Nkaku Kabi.

Mr Sello contested and lost the election for the treasurer’s post which was won by Tlali Mohapi.

Messrs Lehana and Sello on Monday joined forces with the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, to launch an urgent High Court application seeking the nullification of the election of Professor Nqosa Mahao and others to the party’s NEC. They also want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.

The ABC, the ABC’s NEC, the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), Prof Mahao and other candidates in the ABC polls are cited as the first to 44threspondents in the lawsuit. The LCN are cited in their capacity as the entity that ran the polls on behalf of the ABC and subsequently announced the new NEC line-up.

Prof Mahao polled 693 votes to clinch the deputy leader’s contest ahead of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro (546 votes),  former acting incumbent, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe (245 votes) and outgoing party chairperson Motlohi Maliehe (97 votes) at the ABC’s elective conference in Maseru from 1 to 2 February 2019.

Lebohang Hlaele, the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs secured 618 votes to wrestle the secretary general’s post from the former incumbent Samonyane Ntsekele who polled 422 votes.

In the chairperson’s election, Mosalemane constituency legislator Samuel Rapapa polled 829 votes to beat Senator Kemiso Mosenene (380 votes), Defence and National Security minister Tefo Mapesela (239 votes), Lithoteng legislator Lehlohonolo Moramotse (71 votes) and Maliepetsana legislator Mpalipali Molefe (43 votes).

The LCN announced the rest of the new NEC line-up as follows: Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).

However, Prof Mahao and the rest of the winners will have to wait longer to know when, if at all, they will be allowed to take up their positions in the party’s NEC.

This follows the Monday High Court application by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane who want the election results nullified on the grounds that there were serious irregularities “that lead to the undeniable conclusion that the election could never have been free and fair”.

They argue that the number of voters exceeded the number of delegates that had been accredited to vote and on the basis of that alleged anomaly, the election results should not be allowed to stand.

In their court papers, the trio go as far as predicting that there is a “high likelihood of chaos and/or bloodshed” between the recently elected NEC and the outgoing NEC over the control of the party due to the contested results.

“It is in our interest, the interest of justice and the ABC that these irregularities be considered before a new NEC can assume power,” the trio’s lawyer, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, states in the court papers.

“There is a high likelihood of chaos and/or bloodshed ensuing at the headquarters of the first respondent (ABC) with the second respondent (outgoing ABC’s NEC) and the purported recently elected (NEC) members trying or vying to take and/or remain in control of the offices of the ABC.

“There is a high likelihood that the factions will fight each other. The recently elected NEC has not assumed office and if they do it will be to our prejudice as we are challenging the election results,” Adv Sepiriti further states.

Mr Lehana makes the same argument, stating that “it is imperative that this matter be determined with urgency before the reconvening of the conference or declaration of the results (by the ABC)”.

He bases his predictions of violence between the new NEC and the old NEC on the grounds that the new NEC allegedly stated that they wanted power to be transferred to them by 11 February 2019.

“I aver that that there is a high likelihood of chaos and/or bloodshed ensuing at the headquarters of the first respondent (ABC) with the second respondent (outgoing ABC’s NEC) and the purported recently elected (NEC) members trying or vying to take and or remain in control of the offices of the ABC based on the election results.

“There is fear that the newly elected committee might use force to force themselves into office and assume control of the first and second respondent (the party and the party’s NEC).

“I aver that there is a high likelihood that the factions will fight each other,” Mr Lehana states.

The trio therefore want the court to order fresh elections within three months of the finalisation of their court application.

In terms of the interim relief they are seeking, the trio want the court to suspend the processes that would lead to the old NEC handing over power to the new NEC until their case is finalised.

At the heart of the trio’s complaint is the allegation that the total number of votes received for each of the NEC posts was higher than the total number of delegates that were registered to vote.

They allege that 1537 delegates were registered to vote and yet in the case of the deputy leader’s post that was won by Prof Mahao, 1607 people voted.

“I and my co-applicants…studied the entire results and the most upsetting discovery was made. While the total number of delegates who attended the conference as announced by the Credentials Committee and verified by the third respondent (LCN) was 1537, the total number of votes for any portfolio far exceeds the number of delegates.

“For instance, the total number of votes counted for the position of deputy leader is 1607, giving a variance of 70. The honourable court is invited to note that for all contested portfolios, there is a variance between the registered number of delegates and the total number of votes received. This leads to a total variance of 627. This total variance of 627 is as a result of either individuals voting more than once or individuals not registered to vote being allowed to vote or both,” Mr Lehana states in his affidavit which accompanied the court application.

This according to the trio and their lawyer, Adv Sepiriti, is grounds enough for the court to nullify the polls and order fresh elections within three months.

In his founding affidavit, Mr Lehana states that some individuals raised objections during the vote-counting process which he claimed were brushed aside by the LCN.

Messrs Sello and Mohapinyane also signed affidavits aligning themselves to Mr Lehana’s submissions to the court.

“Some of the objections raised are (that) councillors were allowed to vote twice, first in a group as councillors and then with their respective constituencies. The said councillors did not have their identity documents as proof that they were indeed the councillors. This left a possibility that some people voted as the councillors while they were not.

“There were no distinctive methods adopted to mark whose who had already voted, leaving a possibility for an individual to vote over and over again; this was contrary to the decisions of the 2nd respondent (old ABC’s NEC) to the effect that the voters should have had  tags and immediately after one has voted the tag be removed.

“The 17th respondent, Lebohang Hlaele, was seen touting voters already on the queue which was prohibited by the election standards and the election observers raised the issue with the 3rd respondent (LCN) but the latter did nothing to reprimand him,” Mr Lehana states.

He accuses the LCN of refusing to heed calls to halt the elections and address the objections. He further says the grievances were also raised with the ABC’s election sub-committee.

“I am aware that the election sub-committee immediately attended to the issue and requested the 3rd respondent (LCN) to hold in abeyance and/or stop the process of election until the alleged irregularities have been attended to. The 3rd respondent (LCN) just ignored this directive and just proceeded with the election process,” Mr Lehana states.

It is on this basis that the trio want the election results nullified and fresh polls held within three months of the finalisation of their court application.

In the meantime, they want the court to interdict the ABC from confirming the new NEC. They further want the High Court to interdict the outgoing NEC from handing over the properties of the party to the new NEC.

The ABC has been in chaos since the end of its elective conference. Such has been the animosity between the outgoing and the newly elected NEC that the latter found the party offices locked last Thursday and were forced to hold their press conference behind the Metcash Building in Maseru’s central business district.

Three members of the new NEC, namely Lebohang Hlalele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson) and Montoeli Masoetsa (Spokesperson) addressed the media on Thursday. They dispelled rumours of a possible split in the party due to the disputed election outcome.

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