- Mahao confident of positive Appeal Court ruling
PROFESSOR Nqosa Mahao is confident that his faction will emerge victorious in its protracted war with the old national executive committee (NEC) of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) for control of the ruling party.
The outgoing National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor, who was recently dealt a body blow by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase who nullified his and others’ election to the ABC’s new NEC has appealed the controversial decision to the Court of Appeal which will hear arguments in the case tomorrow.
The fractious ABC has not known peace as it was turned into a veritable theatre of war between the two factions which emerged in the run-up to and in the aftermath of the party’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference.
At that conference and against all odds, including the disapproval of the party leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Prof Mahao was elected deputy leader of the party.
However, he and his colleagues have not been able to assume control of the party after their election was flatly opposed by the old NEC which rejected Prof Mahao on the grounds that he was an “upstart” who could not be allowed to deputise Dr Thabane in a party they formed in 2006.
Prof Mahao had clinched the coveted post ahead of party stalwarts, Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport Minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe. As deputy leader, Prof Mahao became the frontrunner to succeed Dr Thabane in both party and government when the veteran
leader eventually calls it a day.
Others who were elected into the new NEC are Dr Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).
But Prof Mahao and the rest of the ‘new’ NEC’s election was subsequently challenged in the High Court by the trio of prominent ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).
The trio filed a court application on 11 February seeking an order to nullify the outcome of the ABC’s elective conference on the grounds that the polls were marred by “vote rigging”.
And with all eyes trained on the much-postponed case, Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase stunned all and sundry on 8 May 2019 when she went on to deliver judgement in a separate but similar application brought before her by the little-known trio of ABC members, Motseki Lefera, ’Matumisang Ntiisa and Martha Makhohlisa.
Before hearing and passing judgment in the first case, ostensibly because of poor health, Justice Mahase found time to emerge in her chambers to nullify the ABC’s February entire 1-2 February 2019 elective conference as per the second case brought by the three unheralded party supporters. She ruled the old NEC should remain in office in an interim capacity for a year and use the time to amend the ABC constitution to provide for the holding of NEC elections. The judgment has earned Judge Mahase a lot of flak with her critics insisting she is betraying the principle of impartiality required of all judges by showing open hostility against Prof Mahao.
Dissatisfied with what he condemned as a “fake judgement”, Prof Mahao and his faction lodged an appeal with the apex court for the rescission of Justice Mahase’ 8 May 2019 default judgement nullifying their election.
The Mahao faction also wants, among other things, the Court of Appeal to overturn another Justice Mahase ruling that Mr Hlaele lacked the legal standing to depose an affidavit on behalf of the ABC’s NEC. Mr Hlaele, who was elected ABC secretary general at the party’s February conference, deposed the affidavit in the initial case in which the outcome of the February conference was challenged by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.
And in his weekend address to thousands of supporters at a rally in Mantšonyane in the Thaba Tseka district, Prof Mahao said the apex court’s verdict, which is expected tomorrow, will settle the protracted power struggle within the ABC once and for all.
Prof Mahao expressed confidence that the Court of Appeal will rule in their favour, adding that the court outcome will help restore unity in the fractious party.
“Friday’s Appeal Court ruling is going to be the final showdown,” Prof Mahao said, adding, “This is where all the scheming and dealing that has been going on within the party since February will be resolved once and for all”.
“I, Nqosa Mahao, am confident that we are going to trump our opponents because their case is not based on the truth.
“We are about to reach the pinnacle of our liberation challenge. We recently got an unfavourable court ruling which restored the old NEC that had been vetoed by ABC members. The court ruling allows them to continue in office for 12 more months.
“The reason for the unfortunate ruling which goes against the popular choice of the ABC electorate was that there is no mention of elections of the NEC in the ABC constitution. Woe to that.
“You do not need to be a legal expert but you just need to read page 24 of the ABC constitution which states that after every five years, the ABC shall elect a national executive committee.
“But Mr (Samonyane) Ntsekele and his team approached the court arguing that there is nowhere where it says the national executive committee should be elected.
“And then the court agreed with them that there is no such clause in the ABC constitution. I want to dish out a free lesson even to the advocates. A constitution is not read like any other law, you have to read all its clauses to be able to make sense of it.
“But these people only concentrate on the verse which only talks about the functions of the national conference and does not include the election of the NEC. But they forgot about the part on page 24. On which platform do they suppose the NEC is elected? At their hangout place in Lakeside?
“By launching this court challenge, our opponents thought they had checkmated us. But they did not know that we still have a trump card.”
Prof Mahao promised they would be magnanimous in victory and they stood ready to work with everyone for the unity and growth of the party.
“I want to say to you that our eyes are already looking beyond the judgement and I and the elected NEC will work hard to restore unity within the ABC.”
He said they had been reliably informed that the rival ABC faction intended to form a new party in the event that the apex court ruled against it. He, however, urged it to abandon such plans and work with his new NEC to address the more pressing challenges of poverty and economic stagnation blighting the country.
“We are against such thinking (of forming a breakaway party) because the challenges facing this country such as poverty and hunger will not be addressed when parties simply split without valid reasons.”
He said as part of efforts to unify and restore sanity to the fractious party, they had even sought the intervention of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL).
“Last Friday we were in a meeting called by the CCL. We have asked them to help us in uniting the party regardless of the outcome of the appeal case. We should not allow minor issues to breed conflicts within the party,” added Prof Mahao.