LESOTHO High Court will today deliver judgment in a case in which opposition parties are challenging the powers of National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai to expel 13 Members of Parliament (MPs) from the august house.
The ruling comes after the High Court on 6 February 2017 indefinitely reserved judgement after hearing arguments from the lawyers representing the MPs, Ms Motsamai and the government in the case.
High Court judge Justice Molefi Makara’s clerk, Eric Ramalefane, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that judgment would be delivered today at 10am.
The tripartite opposition bloc consisting of All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) on 9 November 2016 filed an application in the High Court challenging the anticipated expulsion of some of their MPs for alleged absenteeism from the National Assembly.
Ms Motsamai and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe are cited as the first and second respondents respectively.
Ms Motsamai on 18 November 2016 wrote letters to 13 opposition MPs requesting them to ‘show cause’ why she should not expel them from the National Assembly for alleged absenteeism without her permission.
The opposition parties wanted the High Court to declare that the Speaker has no authority to expel MPs from the August house.
The case was argued on 6 February 2017 and the judges presiding over the case reserved judgment to a date they did not announce, adding it would be delivered any time before parliament re-opens on 24 February this year.
A lawyer representing opposition parties, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, argued that the Speaker of the National Assembly has no powers to declare a seat vacant in the august house.
He said despite lack of such powers the Speaker wanted to declare vacancies in the seats of the MPs she wrote letters to.
He further said the lawyer representing the respondents, Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn, indirectly admitted that the speaker wanted to declare vacancies on the seats occupied by the 13 MPs to whom she wrote letters.
“My learned friend fell short of simply admitting that the speaker wanted to declare a vacancy in parliament; and if so, what is her source of power?
“There is no provision either in the National Assembly Act, Constitution or any other law that allows the speaker to declare a vacancy.
“Her intention appears clearly on the letters she wrote to the MPs that she might make a pronouncement on the vacant seats and thereafter inform the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission),” he said.
He further argued that the constitution provides that: “Any question whether there is vacancy shall be referred to the High Court”.
On the other hand, Advocate Penzhorn argued the speaker did not intend to declare any vacancy in the august house.
“The speaker merely brought to the attention of the MPs that by operation of law their seats were vacant.
“She did not make any decision on their absenteeism.
“The speaker merely acted on the facts that were not disputed by the MPs that they had been absent for a considerable period in parliament.
“She did not rule on anything, but just referred to the provisions of the constitution. She only took cognisance of the law,” he said.
The MPs that face expulsion include the formerly exiled opposition bloc leaders, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo of the ABC, BNP and RCL respectively.
The trio sought refuge in South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 respectively, allegedly after being alerted of a plot to kill them by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members – an accusation the army and government have vehemently denied.
Other MPs facing expulsion include the BNP’s Joang Molapo and Dr Nthabiseng Makoae and the ABC’s Samonyane Ntsekele, Leshoboro Mohlajoa, Tšoeu Molise, Majoro Mohapi, Chalane Phori, Mokherane Tsatsanyane, Motlohi Maliehe and Prince Maliehe.
The case is presided over by Justices Tšeliso Monaphathi, Semapo Peete and Makara.