Parly closure challenge:

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MPs ordered to pay costs

Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai

Tefo Tefo

THE High Court on Monday ordered 10 opposition Members of Parliament to pay costs of suit after they withdrew their challenge of the indefinite adjournment of the National Assembly.

The 10 MPs last week withdrew an application they filed before the High Court last month challenging the indefinite adjournment of the august house on 22 November, 2016 after they deemed the application was academic since it had not been deemed when first heard by the High Court.

They lodged the urgent application before the High Court on 6 December 2016, seeking an order to compel National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai to reconvene the august house.

The applicants were Samonyane Ntsekele, Majoro Mohapi, Motlohi Maliehe, Joang Molapo, ‘Mamolula Ntabe, Moshoeshoe Fako, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, Tjoetsane Seoka, Mokhele Moletsane and Tieho Mamasiane.

The applicants were drawn from the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the-then Democratic Congress (DC) members who subsequently joined the newly-established Alliance of Democrats (AD).

The respondents included 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 notice of withdrawal was filed in court and served to the respondents on Monday last week, but had to be endorsed by the court when the court reconvened on Monday this week.

High Court judge Justice Sakoane Sakoane said the court accepted the withdrawal but ordered the 10 MPs to pay costs of suit for the employment of two counsels for the respondents. The costs are yet to be determined.

The three High Court judges, Justices Semapo Peete, Sakoane Sakoane and Lebohang Molete, had on 13 December 2016 postponed the case to 23 January 2017.

The case was postponed after the judges said they first wanted to hear arguments from lawyers on whether the High Court had powers to deal with parliamentary issues.

The applicants’ lawyer, Advocate Motšoari, had filed a certificate of urgency to advance reasons why he urged the court to treat the case as an urgent matter.

He argued: “The closure of the National Assembly on the basis as stated by the 1st respondent (Ms Motsamai) has clearly created a constitutional deadlock which must be addressed as a matter of urgency because there is an impending coalition of other members of parliament, the legitimacy of which is dependent on the opening and deliberation of parliamentary proceedings”.

He further argued: “The withdrawal of a significant number of the ruling coalition government has clearly necessitated an issue of public interest in the status of the ruling government that must be expedited swiftly.

“A new coalition agreement has been entered into by a majority of members of parliament and the closure of the parliament on the basis of a standing order which has been irregularly applied and interpreted.”

Advocate Motšoari alleged the closure had created a constitutional impasse in that MPs were emasculated from performing their constitutional mandates.

He also argued that the closure prejudiced the nation as there were some reports which had to be adopted as a matter of urgency in the National Assembly.

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