MASERU – The High Court yesterday postponed to April 11 a case in which Majara Molapo is challenging the validity of the Basotho National Party (BNP) election last weekend.
Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi said he wanted to give the two parties a chance to solve their differences out of court.
He urged the disputing parties to solve their differences amicably without having to haul each other before the courts.
Molapo wanted BNP acting president Thesele ’Maseribane and secretary general Ranthomeng Matete barred from contesting for the presidency at the party’s special conference last weekend.
The postponement of the case was also granted to give the applicant, Molapo, time to hire a new lawyer after his attorney Thabang Khauoe withdrew from the case.
Molapo filed an urgent application in the High Court on Friday afternoon last week ahead of the conference which was scheduled to start at 10am on Saturday arguing against the composition of constituency delegates who would elect the party leader.
Molapo also argued against the candidacy of ’Maseribane and Matete for the leadership position on the grounds that they were members of the national executive committee and therefore their entry into the presidential election race clashed with the principles of natural justice.
’Maseribane was then the acting president after the ouster of Major General Metsing Lekhanya in December last year.
’Maseribane was elected BNP leader at the conference.
Two judges, Justices ’Maseshophe Hlajoane and Monaphathi, declined to grant an order to interdict the conference on Friday and on Saturday morning.
Refusing to interdict the conference, Justice Monaphathi had said if the court would uphold Molapo’s arguments the ruling would nullify the conference.
Yesterday Justice Monaphathi was to hear the arguments and decide whether the national executive committee had indeed brought delegates who were constitutionally not qualified to enter the conference hall and vote.
Instead, Justice Monaphathi dwelt on the essence of peace-making and compromises by the warring parties before he postponed the case.
He said it was essential for the disputing parties to solve their differences bearing in mind that they are “merely drivers of the BNP that does not belong to you but to the people who follow you”.
“Why do you have a problem sitting around a table and discussing your problems to find solutions that will be long-lasting?” he asked.
Molapo told the court that he did not have a problem with the suggestion but the national executive committee was turning a blind eye to the points he was raising.
“I wrote the general secretary Chief Ranthomeng Matete many letters but he never responded,” Molapo said.
“I found myself having to bring this matter to court upon seeing that they were not prepared to hear me,” he said.
Molapo said things he feared could happen at the conference surfaced after the court declined to grant his prayer to stop the conference.
He had alleged in his affidavit that several constituency committees around the country were elected surreptitiously ahead of the conference to elect the party leader.
These committees are, according to the BNP constitution, responsible for bringing delegates to any general or special conference.
He argued the conference was unlawful because it was attended by those constituencies while excluding others that had been accepted before.
“I have information which I verily believe to be true and correct that the same pattern of irregular invasions into constituencies has been the norm as irregular and unconstitutional committees have been imposed,” said Molapo in his affidavit.
“I aver that the coming annual conference and the election of the leader will be a flaw as most delegates will have been unconstitutionally and irregularly elected,” he said.
At the conference the Lesotho Times observed that there were delegates who were said to be from the North West province of South Africa who participated and voted.
Matete replied to Justice Monaphathi’s question of why they could not meet to solve the party problems by saying he did not have any problem with Molapo and he was always ready to meet him.
“I have always said we should sit around the table and discuss issues,” Matete said.
“Even yesterday we asked our lawyer to talk to Chief Majara Molapo’s lawyer and find out if we could not solve this issue without going to the courts,” he said.
“It was yesterday afternoon when we discussed it.”
Justice Monaphathi suggested that the parties could seek a mediator from local civic organisations if they felt that they could not do it on their own.
He also cautioned that going to court would burden the BNP financially.
He said the other party had engaged the services of a senior counsel,
Advocate Kananelo Mosito, who would charge fees according to his high status and the bill would “be paid by the BNP’s poor men and women who are your followers”.