- alleges top judge is a “politician and card-carrying ABC member”
- Mahase says unmoved by the public attacks by the Mahao faction
ACTING Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase says she is unmoved by the virulent criticism and brickbats that have been thrown her way by the Professor Nqosa Mahao faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) over her controversial handling of cases to do with the power struggle bedeviling the party.
The latest salvo was fired at Justice Mahase by ABC Secretary General Lebohang Hlaele who branded her a “politician” and “card-carrying member of the ABC” who had used her position as judge to emasculate the Mahao camp.
The tough-talking Mr Hlaele, who is also son-in law to ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, however said they will not be intimidated by anyone including the premier, the army or the police.
He said they would eventually “win the political battle” which they were currently fighting against Dr Thabane and the former national executive committee (NEC) which continued to resist their February 2019 election as the party’s new NEC.
Mr Hlaele made the remarks at an ABC rally in Peka, Leribe, this week. However, the acting chief justice remains unfazed by the latest attacks by Mr Hlaele. When contacted for comment by the Lesotho Times this week, Justice Mahase said she would not dignify comments made about her at public rallies with a response.
“I will not respond to the rally issues. In any event the person (Mr Hlaele) who spoke about me did not even inform me that he was going to speak about me at the rally,” Justice Mahase said in her brief response to Mr Hlaele’s comments.
The attack by Mr Hlaele came after last week’s interim order by Justice Mahase which barred Mr Hlaele and others in the Mahao camp from holding a special conference to determine the fate of “suspended” ABC leader Dr Thabane. The Mahao camp had planned to convene the special conference on Saturday 6 July 2019 to deliberate on the fate of Dr Thabane who they recently “suspended” for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute through his failure to accept them as the legitimate NEC in line with a 12 June 2019 High Court ruling. In addition, the special conference would have discussed the ABC power struggle. The Mahao camp was however, forced to abort the conference due to Justice Mahase’s 11th hour interdict.
The Mahao camp, which was also “expelled” from the party by Dr Thabane, was also barred by Justice Mahase from holding rallies, presenting themselves as members of the ABC’s NEC and from “using in any manner whatsoever any colours, flags, emblems of the ABC”.
Mr Hlaele and the rest of the Mahao camp were not only peeved by the adverse judgement but also by the manner in which it was issued. Not only did Justice Mahase turn down their application for her to recuse herself from the case that had been brought against them by Dr Thabane and deputy secretary general Nkaku Kabi, they were also left seething by the judge’s refusal to hear the case in an open court last Thursday.
In compliance with Justice Mahase’s Thursday order, the “expelled” Prof Mahao, Samuel Rapapa (chairperson) and Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson) did not attend the Peka rally. However, Mr Hlaele and fellow “expelled” spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa made a belated appearance at the rally in a convoy of five cars with heavily armed security guards.
Even though they eventually showed up at the rally which was organised by the party’s Peka constituency committee, Messrs Hlaele and Masoetsa refrained from wearing ABC regalia. When he was prompted by the Peka committee to address the crowd, Mr Hlaele stressed that he was doing so in his personal and not in his capacity as secretary general in keeping with Justice Mahase’s order.
He however, did not hold back in his attack on the acting chief justice, branding her “an ABC politician in judge’s robes”.
He said she issued the adverse Thursday judgement because she was a biased ABC member.
“I abide by Mme ‘Maseforo’s court order hence I’m speaking here as Lebohang Hlaele from Phamong. You all know that a big ABC member (Justice Mahase) gave us a court order last Thursday. One time in court she asked which political party she had a membership card of and so today I want to answer and tell her that she carries an ABC card. Only a politician would meddle in political groups’ issues in the way she does,” Mr Hlaele said.
The combative ABC secretary general said despite Justice Mahase’s ruling, they would still win the war for the control of the ABC.
“I’m not speaking in my capacity as the ABC secretary general or an NEC member because she (Justice Mahase) instructed me not to do so. But I want to inform you that regardless of what the court order says, we are very close to victory. We will win this political battle even if you bring the army or the police because we fight our political battle with words only.”
Mr Hlaele said while he respected Justice Mahase’s verdict, he would however, not be intimidated into shying away from exercising his democratic right to attend ABC or even opposition Democratic Congress (DC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rallies. He also made fun of Justice Mahase’s order which barred them and their “agents and supporters” from calling and/or convening any ABC rallies, saying the ABC had members and supporters were only for football teams.
“You see I’m not in the ABC regalia and that is because ‘Maseforo ordered us not to wear the party colours. I’m not addressing this rally as a member of the newly elected NEC and that is because ‘Maseforo said we should not do that.
“She also said I should not go to the rallies of my supporters and my agents. I only had supporters in Phamong when I used to play soccer and they would cheer me. But this is the political field and there are ABC members from the constituencies and branches and not supporters (like in soccer).”
Although the Mahao camp was barred by Justice Mahase, defiant ABC constituencies on Saturday converged in Thaba Bosiu and resolved to not only “suspend” Dr Thabane from the party for six years but replace him with his nemesis, Prof Mahao. While the legality of the Saturday special conference by the constituencies is in doubt, Mr Hlaele said the fate of the ABC would ultimately be “decided by its members and not ‘Maseforo”.
“We wanted to hold a special conference at Lesotho High School in Maseru on Saturday but because we were ordered to cancel (by Justice Mahase) we abided by that ruling.
“However, the ultimate decisions were made (in Thaba Bosiu) by ABC members who do not need me or ‘Maseforo. They (Thaba Bosiu resolutions to suspend Dr Thabane) are solely for the ABC.
Mr Hlaele also said he was aware that 23 people had followed them to rally with instructions to “torture us until we are wheel chair bound”.
He however, warned that those sent to perform such “dirty jobs” would one day individually account for their actions.
“Where is Kamoli today,” Mr Hlaele said in reference to the detained murder-accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
“He (Lt-Gen Kamoli) did not know that he would go to prison one day because of the same dirty job (of torturing) these boys have been sent to come and do here today,” Mr Hlaele said.