- files urgent High Court application to stop elective conference to choose successor
SHARP divisions have re-emerged in the ruling Keketso Rantšo-led Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) with some of the party’s officials planning to oust the party leader at an elective conference on Saturday in Mafeteng.
A circular issued by RCL “deputy secretary general”, Retṧelisitsoe Lesane, states that the party will hold its elective conference over the weekend and former secretary general, ’Machabane Lemphane-Letsie and one Poeea Letsielo are billed to fight it out for the leader’s post.
However, Ms Rantšo, whose name is not on the candidates’ list, has filed an urgent High Court application to stop the holding of the elective conference.
Ms Rantšo, who is also the Minister of Labour and Employment, filed her application on Tuesday. The RCL and its national executive committee (NEC) are the first and second applicants respectively. Mr Lesane is the sole respondent in the application.
The RCL leader alleges in her application that the NEC whose meetings she chairs, has not resolved to hold an elective conference, and therefore Mr Lesane should be interdicted from calling for the conference.
“It will be clear (from the 30 January 2020 circular announcing the elective conference) that the respondent (Mr Lesane) does not state when the decision to call the elective conference was purportedly made by the second applicant (NEC) and there has never been any meeting which the second applicant convened and agreed to call an elective conference on 15 February 2020 as alleged,” Ms Rantšo states in her founding affidavit.
“The respondent is in fact an imposter in as much as he claims to be the vice secretary general of the applicants. Messrs Machabane Letsie, Maseithati Mabeleng, Tsepo Selika and Mitchel Thatai had to give up their positions (in the NEC) because they occupy offices in the public service. This is pursuant to the Public Service Regulations that disqualify public servants from holding active political offices. Following the exit of Ms Mabeleng, the applicants elected a new secretary general in the person of Nkhatho Monare on 28 September 2019.
“There is no way the respondent could have issued a circular of calling for an elective conference when the secretary general (Monare) was still available and in office. It is the responsibility of the secretary general to issue circulars and communicate with the outside world and members of the party.”
There has been a long-running power struggle pitting Ms Rantšo against Ms Lemphane-Letsie. In 2018, Ms Rantšo attempted to suspend Ms Lemphane-Letsie but the latter, who is also principal secretary in the Home Affairs ministry, responded by filing a court application challenging Ms Rantšo’s moves. The case is still pending before the High Court.
Last year, Ms Rantšo fell out with Mr Lesane who had served as both her private secretary and the RCL’s youth League president.
In her court papers, Ms Rantšo states that Mr Lesane is not the party’s deputy secretary general but just a youth leader who should not be in possession of the RCL’s official stamp.
“The respondent is unlawfully holding himself out as the deputy secretary general and is in unlawful possession of the office rubber stamp which he is not entitled to. He has previously been told to surrender the said stamp but appears to have refused. The deputy secretary general of the party is Neo Jonas, not the respondent.
“The respondent is indeed a member of the first applicant (RCL) but not an elected member of the second applicant. He participates in the second applicant (NEC) only as leader of the youth league. The conduct of the respondent is leading to confusion amongst the members of the party, much to its detriment.
“The respondent appears to lead a cabal of disgruntled members who are determined to destabilise the first applicant (RCL) and cause a dissension to serve their own personal interests. The respondent’s conduct is wrongful and unlawful. He has no power in terms of the constitution of the first applicant to call an elective conference and he has no right to misrepresent that he is acting on the authority of the second applicant (NEC).
“The unlawful actions of the respondent are likely to have serious repercussions for individual members of the applicant who may be misled into believing that the conference he has called is legitimate. This will lead to loss of time, morale and expenses for those members and could lead to defections and dwindling numbers in the membership of the party. The applicants (RCL and NEC) have a duty to stop this conduct of the respondent,” Ms Rantšo states.
The RCL has been unable to hold its elective conference since last year when the NEC filed a court application to block a conference which Ms Rantšo had slated for 7 September 2019. The conference was subsequently cancelled and some members of the NEC attempted to expel Ms Rantšo who resisted the moves on the grounds that she could not be expelled from a party she formed. The RCL was formed in December 2014 as a breakaway from the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).