MASERU — The Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a High Court ruling which ordered the opposition Basotho National Party (BNP) to convene a fresh elective conference.
Justice Ian Farlam dismissed with costs a June 23 ruling by Justice ’Maseforo Mahase that called on the BNP national executive committee to convene a new elective conference on the grounds that the April 25-27 conference that brought the current leadership into power was “null, void and irregular”.
In his judgment Justice Farlam said that “orders made in the court a quo be set aside and replaced”.
“The application is dismissed with costs,” Justice Farlam said.
The judgment brought to a halt a grinding months-long battle between Majara Molapo and the national executive committee for control of the former ruling party.
In late April Molapo challenged the legality of the conference that saw Thesele ’Maseribane being elected party leader.
Molapo was one of seven candidates who were vying for the presidency of the BNP but pulled out of the race days before the conference.
He wanted ’Maseribane barred from contesting the presidency arguing that he had an unfair advantage by virtue of being the acting BNP leader.
Molapo then filed an urgent application at the High Court seeking to block the conference.
His application was heard on the day of the indaba.
The court ruled that since the conference was already in progress it must be allowed to proceed but indicated that Molapo could still challenge its legality.
The High Court in June then ruled in Molapo’s favour declaring the BNP conference “irregular, null and void”.
The BNP executive committee then appealed against Justice Mahase’s ruling and applied for a stay of execution of her judgment.
In his application Molapo had argued that BNP secretary general Ranthomeng Matete had failed to see to it that constituency committee elections leading to the elective conference for the entire district of Leribe were “lawfully conducted”,
a charge upheld by Justice Mahase.
“In reaching this conclusion, the judge held that certain persons including the fifth appellant (Tšita Letsie, BNP national organiser) had usurped the functions and responsibilities of the fourth appellant (Matete),” Justice Farlam said as he
read out the judgment.
“She (Justice Mahase) rejected the argument on behalf of the appellants that this strict interpretation of the constitution should not be upheld because it would not be possible for the secretary general to be all over the place on a daily basis.”
In Justice Mahase’s opinion, Justice Farlam said, the argument did not “advance the case of the appellants”.
Justice Farlam added that the BNP legal representative, Advocate Kananelo Mosito, had also contended that the manner in which the High Court interpreted the BNP constitution was wrong.
“I agree with this submission. I think that the approach adopted in the court a quo deviated from what was a ‘practical common sense approach to the matter’ and was clearly wrong,” he said.
The court a quo should have found that the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the party’s constitution for which the respondent had contended should be rejected because it would make it unnecessarily difficult and sometimes
impossible to carry out the constitution, Justice Farlam said.
“In my view, the court a quo should have found that the NEC and the secretary-general were empowered to delegate to others the conducing supervision of constituency committee elections,” he added.