ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) “acting” leader Professor Nqosa Mahao outfoxed their party rivals by hurriedly staging their weekend special conference in Maseru and dispersing before court officials arrived to serve them with an order blocking the conference.
The conference appeared to be in jeopardy after High Court judge, Justice Semapo Peete, on Saturday issued an interim order blocking the Mahao camp from going ahead with it.
The Saturday order would have been a massive blow to the Mahao camp, coming barely a day after Justice Peete had initially granted the Mahao faction an order allowing them to hold the special conference on Saturday.
Never-the-less, the conference proceeded to finality as the Mahao faction who had caught wind of moves to block the conference hurriedly held it, completed proceedings and dispersed from the Lesotho High School venue shortly before 2pm on Saturday. They finished the conference before the court’s sheriff, Thato Mohale, arrived to serve them with the Saturday order blocking the conference.
The delegates resolved to suspend ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from the party for six years for alleged “uncomely behaviour” and sowing divisions within the fractious ruling party. He was suspended along with the party’s deputy secretary general, Nkaku Kabi.
The special conference also nullified the 17 June 2019 “expulsions” of ABC deputy leader, Prof Mahao and his four NEC allies, namely, Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and his deputy, Matebatso Doti.
The conference went ahead on Saturday despite desperate last minute attempts by the police and the ABC faction loyal to Dr Thabane to stop it through court litigation. In the end, the conference was rushed and it ended just before 2pm as the delegates, who had been alerted of their rivals’ moves to stop it, moved swiftly to ensure that they would not be found when the other party faction eventually came with a court order to stop proceedings.
Before that on Friday evening, the Mahao faction had obtained an 11th hour High Court interdict against the police who had revoked their permit to hold the conference on Friday.
The Mahao faction were initially granted a police permit on 5 September 2019, allowing them to hold their conference at Lesotho High School on 7 September 2019. To their dismay, the permit was revoked on Friday morning at 8am on grounds that it posed a “security threat or harm to the public”.
Prof Mahao and his four allies then petitioned the High Court the same day and at 10pm on Friday, Justice Peete granted their petition to proceed with the special conference.
In their Friday petition, the quintet asked the court to nullify the Maseru police’s decision to revoke their permit as they “had already incurred costs in relation to preparations for the said conference”.
“The applicants will suffer an irreparable harm if the meeting is not held as they have already made publications for the said meeting and expenses of preparing for the meeting have already been incurred such as transport for ABC constituency members who reside out of the country,” Mr Hlaele stated in his founding affidavit.
“There is no harm posed to social security nor any other prejudice that may be suffered should the meeting succeed. I aver that the decision to cancel the permit was contrary to section 5 of the Public Meetings and Processions Act 2010. The procedure of cancelling the permit is also not in compliance with Section 5 (2) of the mentioned act as there was no hearing given to the applicants nor their representatives for such cancellation.”
Justice Peete then granted the order as prayed for by Prof Mahao and his allies.
The respondents in the application were the Maseru District Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Maseru City Council and the Attorney General respectively.
However, on Saturday the tables turned as the respondents became the applicants and petitioned the same court and same judge to block the special conference. Justice Peete went on to issue an interim order blocking the conference. The order was issued in the absence of the Mahao camp who were already holding the conference at Lesotho High School.
Justice Semapo Peete’s order called upon the respondents to “show cause if any why the execution of the court order granted on the 6th September 2019 at 22.00 hours (allowing the special conference to proceed) shall not be stopped pending finalisation (of the application to stop the special conference)”. Justice Peete resolved to hear the application on 13 September 2019.
However, the case has been rendered academic after the conference was held to finality last Saturday.
This after the High Court’s deputy sheriff, Thato Mohale, failed to serve the order on Prof Mahao and other respondents as they had already dispersed when he arrived at Lesotho High School on Saturday afternoon.
“I was unable to effect service of the certificate of urgency and interim court order on 7 September 2019 at Lesotho High School upon both respondents (ABC and its NEC) as they were already out of the premises and prayers (stay of the conference) could not be effected with immediate effect,” Mr Mohale stated in his report to the High Court this week.
The order cited the Minister of Police, Public Safety and Security, the District (police) Commissioner of Maseru, the Commissioner of Police, the Maseru City Council and the Attorney General as applicants. The ABC and ABC’s NEC were cited as the respondents.
Even Mr Kabi conceded that their rivals had been “quite smart because they dodged the court order”.
“I don’t know how to respond because there has been a court order to (stop the conference) but I am not aware that we have been suspended again.
“I think they were quite smart because they (Mahao faction) dodged the court order by dispersing the conference and maybe it will legally work to their advantage. This is a political game and we are beating each other at our own political game,” Mr Kabi said.
On their part, the Mahao faction’s lawyer, Advocate Koili Ndebele, said they were shocked by Justice Peete’s about-turn after he had initially given the conference the greenlight. Adv Ndebele however, said the second order had no legal force because they had not been served on Saturday.
“We were shocked to learn of the Saturday order to stop the conference but it does not stand as the conference was already over by the time it was supposed to be served. So there was nothing to be stopped anymore.
“Besides that, no one on our side, including our clients, was served with the order and we only got to know about it on social media,” Adv Ndebele said yesterday.