DC members sue to force internal elections

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Mohalenyane Phakela

CRACKS have started emerging in the Democratic Congress (DC) after two of its members petitioned the High Court to force the party to elect a new national executive committee (NEC) and other subsidiary committees.

The two members, Litlhokoa Litlhokoa and Khokho Pearl Tṥiame, want the High Court to reverse the DC’s 20 February 2022 executive committee decision to suspend the NEC, Women’s League and Youth League committees’ elections.

The DC NEC held a special conference on 20 February 2022 at Lesotho High School in Maseru and resolved to suspend the three committees’ elections until after the general elections which are slated for September this year.

This did not go well with Mr Litlhokoa and Ms Tṥiame who have now petitioned the High Court to nullify the 20 February decision.

They argue in their application that the NEC’s decision to suspend the three committees’ elections violates provisions of the DC constitution.

The DC NEC and the DC are the two respondents in the matter.

They argue that the DC was supposed to hold the annual general conference to elect the new NEC between December 2021 and January 2022, elect the new Women’s League in November 2020 and the Youth League in July 2021. This, they argue, is dictated by the party’s constitution which states that new committees must be elected every three years.

“In terms of clause 3.1(b) of the DC constitution, the annual conference of the DC shall be held every three years in the months of December and January as the case may be,” part of Mr Litlhokoa’s affidavit reads.

‘In terms of clause 5.1.4.2 (of the DC constitution) the term of office of the national executive committee shall be three years and the elections of the NEC shall be done at the annual conference in terms of clause 3.1(b).

“The election of the current NEC was done on 21 January 2019. It follows that the term of office expired on 22 January 2022. The Women’s League was elected on 25 November 2017, and it means that its term of office expired on 26 November 2020. The Youth League’s elective conference was held in August 2018 and its term of office expired in August 2021.”

Since the said committees have been in place for more than three years each, they are in violation of the party’s constitution, Mr Litlhokoa says. Therefore, it is imperative that the respondents ensure compliance with the constitution of the party.

“I aver that the second respondent (DC) failed to convene an annual conference to elect the national executive committee in December 2021 and January 2022 in terms of the constitution of the party.”

Even though the applicants concede that the DC was not able to hold the three conferences as a result of Covid-19 regulations and restrictions which barred gatherings, they argue that the government lifted the bans in January this year. Therefore, there is nothing hindering the DC from electing the three committees.

They also argue that the NEC’s 20 February decision to defer the committees’ elections until after the general elections violated the party’s constitution.

“It was imperative for the NEC to convene the annual general conference after the expiry of the three years of the NEC in office. By failing to convene such a conference, the first respondent (NEC) failed to comply with one of its cardinal contractual obligations as set out in clause 3.1 of the constitution.

“I confirm that the respondents’ decision in effect enables the NEC currently in office to remain for a period exceeding the term regulated by the constitution. This decision contravenes the provisions of the constitution and contravenes the principles of democracy which dictate that the NEC ought to be voted into office to complete a term of three years. The deliberate extension of their term in office is in stark contrast with the spirit of the respondents’ constitution and principles of democracy enunciated in the constitution. This decision also violates the contractual obligation of members of the DC,” Mr Litlhokoa argues.

He said the respondents were not entitled to make the decision to defer the committees’ elections to periods other than those dictated by the constitution.

The decision is unlawful and unconstitutional because the elections of the committees in question are overdue. The NEC also does not retain any power to extend the term in office of committees, he says.

“The deliberate extension of office terms is novel to the constitution of the DC and is in effect an alteration of the powers conferred by the constitution.

“Finally, the applicants stand to suffer irreparable harm if the NEC’s mandate is not renewed. We stand deprived of the right to exercise our constitutional right to be voted into office and/or vote our preferred candidates into office. There are benefits associated with membership of the NEC, one of which is that we stand good chances of being placed on the proportional representation list. It is in the best interest of the DC and so the applicants that this matter is resolved urgently,” Mr Litlhokoa argues.

The duo therefore prays the High Court to nullify and set aside the 20 February 2022 NEC’s decision to suspend the elections of the three committees.

The matter was filed on 8 March 2022 but is yet to be allocated a hearing date.

 

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