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Hlaele fights back against ABC rivals

Nat Molomo

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) Senator, Lebohang Hlaele, has filed an urgent High Court application seeking an order barring the outgoing secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele and his colleagues in the ABC’s outgoing national executive committee (NEC) from suspending him from the party.

Mr Hlaele, who was elected secretary general at the ABC’s recent elective conference, argues that Mr Ntsekele and the outgoing NEC cannot suspend him from the party while there is a court case where his and others’ election to the new NEC is being challenged.

He further argues that Mr Ntsekele and fellow members of the old NEC do not have the powers to suspend or even expel him because they are only in temporary charge of the party and “thus cannot make any substantial changes” within the ABC.

Mr Hlaele’s court application was launched in response to the recent letter that Mr Ntsekele wrote in his capacity as interim ABC secretary general, requesting Mr Hlaele to show cause why he should not be suspended from the party.  The show cause letter against Mr Hlaele stems from an accusation that he “fraudulently” authorised the appointment of K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC in a case in which three ABC legislators Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe) are seeking the nullification of the results of the party’s 1 and 2 February elective conference.

The “show cause” demand came hot on the heels of ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s recent dismissal of Mr Hlaele from his position as Law and Constitutional Affairs minister. The dismissal of Mr Hlaele, together with his cabinet counterpart ‘Matebatso Doti, is seen as Dr Thabane’s revenge for the two’s staunch support of Nqosa Mahao, who won the deputy leader’s post against the ABC leader’s wishes.

Mr Hlaele was voted into the secretary general’s post while Professor Mahao, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor was voted into the post of deputy leader, casting him in good stead to eventually lead the ABC and possibly become Prime Minister.  However, Mr Hlaele, Prof Mahao, Ms Doti and the rest of the newly elected NEC have not been able to assume office after their election was challenged by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.

Mr Hlaele’s ‘show cause’ letter was signed by Mr Ntsekele. Mr Ntsekele’s obvious reason for doing that stems from a belief that since the new NEC was interdicted from assuming office, then his defeated NEC retains the right to run the party.

Mr Hlaele had been given until last Sunday to write back and state why he should not be suspended from the party to pave way for investigations into his alleged fraudulent authorisation of the appointment of K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC on 11 February 2019.

This is the same law firm that successfully challenged the old ABC’s NEC’s decision to disqualify Prof Mahao from contesting the elections on the grounds that he had not served in the party structures for the required period.

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 44th respondents in the trio’s lawsuit. The LCN are cited in their capacity as the organisation that ran the polls on behalf of the ABC and announced the new NEC line-up.

Part of Mr Ntsekele’s show cause letter to Mr Hlaele, dated 21 February 2019 states that, “the (old) ABC national executive committee (NEC) is aware of the allegations that on 11 February 2019, you wrote a letter and signed a fraudulent letter indicating that there was a NEC meeting which resolved to appoint K.J. Nthontho Attorneys to represent the ABC in court”.

“It is further alleged that the fraudulent letter had a fraudulent official stamp of the party because the authentic official stamp of the party is in safekeeping of the office of the secretary general (Mr Ntsekele) who has never handed it over to you.

“Honourable (Hlaele), the (old) NEC is deeply worried by these allegations and in its 18 February 2019 sitting, the NEC took a decision to thoroughly investigate these allegations. You are therefore ordered to give reasons why you should not be temporarily suspended from the party while investigations against you are ongoing,” Mr Ntsekele further states.

But last Friday, Mr Hlaele hit back by filing the court application to forestall any attempts to suspend or kick him out of the party.

He wants the High Court to “declare that the respondents do not have any right or authority to deliberate on the suspension and possible dismissal of the applicant (Mr Hlaele) from the NEC of the All Basotho Convention until the main case (challenging his and others’ election into the ABC’s new NEC) is finalised.

Mr Ntsekele, the outgoing NEC and the ABC are cited as the 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

Mr Hlaele contends that Mr Ntsekele, the outgoing NEC and the ABC “do not have any right or authority to decide and determine matters relating to the applicant to act for and on behalf of the NEC and ABC as much as the matter is still in court (where Mr Hlaele’s election to the post of secretary general is being challenged)”.

“The first respondent (Mr Ntsekele) should be and is hereby interdicted against abusing the corporate veil of the 2nd (ABC’s NEC) and 3rd (ABC) respondents to persecute the applicant pending the determination of this application,” Mr Hlaele states in his application.

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