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Court rules in minister’s favour

by Lesotho Times
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Finance Minister Tlohang Sekhamane

Tefo Tefo

A PANEL of five High Court judges on Monday ruled that the Minister of Finance, Tlohang Sekhamane can make withdrawals from the government coffers in terms of the constitution despite his failure to present budget before parliament.

The judgment was made after the Basotho National Party (BNP) spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe filed an urgent constitutional challenge to prevent the finance minister from making withdrawals from the consolidated fund as he had failed to table financial estimates in parliament last month.

Opposition legislators objected to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai’s invitation to the minister to table the financial estimates for 2017-2018 financial year as they sought to prioritise the no confidence motion which subsequently toppled Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s coalition government on 1 March 2017.

Dr Mosisili immediately advised His Majesty King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for elections and this was done before the estimates were tabled in parliament.

Mr Mofomobe and a political activist, Mohato Seleke subsequently filed an application seeking to prevent Mr Sekhamane from making withdrawals from the consolidated fund.

They alleged in their court papers that they had learnt that the finance minister was about to make withdrawals from the consolidated fund in terms of section 113 of the constitution.

Section 113 makes provision for the finance minister to make one third withdrawals of the budget if the financial year starts before the budget is passed by parliament.

Mr Mofomobe and his co-applicant argued the minister could only make withdrawals if the estimates had been tabled before parliament.

But the judges dismissed the claim ordering that the minister could make withdrawals in terms of section 113 of the constitution.

The court also dismissed the constitutional challenge filed by prominent lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo King’s Counsel (KC) and the BNP deputy leader, Joang Molapo.

The duo wanted the court to review His Majesty’s decision to dissolve parliament after Dr Mosisili lost a no confidence vote in parliament on 1 March.

They alleged that King Letsie III acted “irrationally” because he was advised by the wrong authority.

They argued His Majesty was supposed to be advised by the Council of State on the dissolution of parliament.

But the court also dismissed their claim, stating the Prime Minister was the rightful authority to advise His Majesty.

The court said the constitution provides that the Prime Minister should advise His Majesty within three days of a vote of no confidence being passed, which he did.

However, the court did not award any costs in the two applications which were heard together.

The presiding judges were Justices Teboho Moiloa, Semapo Peete, Lebohang Molete, Molefi Makara and Keketso Moahloli.

 

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