MPs parly challenge case postponed
THE case in which 10 members of parliament are challenging the indefinite and abrupt closure of the National Assembly was on Tuesday postponed to 23 January 2017.
The MPs lodged an urgent application before the High Court last week seeking an order to compel the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai, to reconvene the august house after it was indefinitely adjourned last month.
The applicants are Mr Samonyane Ntsekele, Mr Majoro Mohapi, Mr Motlohi Maliehe, Chief Joang Molapo, Ms ‘Mamolula Ntabe, Mr Moshoeshoe Fako, Ms ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, Mr Tjoetsane Seoka, Mr Mokhele Moletsane and Mr Tieho Mamasiane.
The 10 MPs are also seeking an order declaring that Ms Motsamai’s decision to indefinitely adjourn the National Assembly “in tandem with Standing Order No. 18(4) of the National Assembly of Lesotho Standing Order of 2007 be reviewed, corrected and set aside” on the grounds that it is not in the national interest.
They also want Ms Motsamai to show cause, if any, why she should not be ordered to reconvene the National Assembly.
The applicants are also seeking an order directing the clerk of the National Assembly to submit the record of the National Assembly proceedings of 22 November 2016 to the High Court.
One of the applicants’ lawyers Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai urged the court to treat the application as an urgent matter on the basis that the closure of the National Assembly compromised democracy.
The other lawyers representing the applicants are King’s Counsel Haae Phoofolo, Advocates Ranale Thoahlane and Makhetha Motšoari.
However, when the court reconvened after a lunch break on Tuesday, the judges who presided over the case said the court had to decide on whether it had powers to hear the case before dealing with the issue of urgency.
The new development resulted in the postponement of the case to 23 January 2017.
The three judges presiding over the case are Justices Semapo Peete, Lebohang Molete and Sakoane Sakoane.
Justice Peete said: “Jurisdiction and urgency are intertwined.
“The issue of urgency can only be determined if this court has jurisdiction. The issue of jurisdiction should take precedence.”
Advocate Phoofolo suggested that they should be given until today (Thursday) to address the court on whether it had jurisdiction to hear the case or not.
“We need at least two days to prepare to argue the matter,” he said.
But one of the lawyers representing the respondents, Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn, suggested the case could be argued on the third week of January because the case was not urgent.
The respondents are Ms Motsamai, Clerk of the National Assembly King’s Counsel Fine Maema, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, RCL leader Keketso Rantšo and all other MPs.
The respondents are represented by Advocates Penzhorn, Roland Suhr, Letuka Molati and Molise Molise.
However, opposition MPs and others who defected from the Democratic Congress (DC) to join the newly formed Alliance of Democrats (AD) are not opposing the application.
Advocate Thoahlane had argued that postponing the case to January “would mean the court has already indirectly decided that the matter is not urgent”.