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Phamotse, Makhalanyane challenge suspension

by Lesotho Times
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Moorosi Tsiane/ Mohalenyane Phakela

THE High Court is tomorrow expected to hear arguments on whether it should treat as urgent, an application by two Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) legislators, who are challenging their six-year suspension from the ruling party.

Dr Mahali Phamotse and Mr Thuso Makhalanyane, who represent Matlakeng and Abia constituencies in the national assembly respectively, approached the High Court on Monday seeking an order declaring their weekend suspension unlawful.

The MPs had planned to move their application yesterday, but Justice Keketso Moahloli deferred the matter to Friday, saying the respondents should file their opposing papers before he could hear the case’s preliminary arguments.

In the temporary reliefs to be sought tomorrow, Dr Phamotse and Mr Makhalanyane want the High Court to stay their suspension pending the final determination of the case.

In terms of final reliefs, the MPs also want the court to declare their suspension as RFP members unlawful, null and void and set aside. They also want the RFP to present them with the record of proceedings that resulted in their suspension.

The RFP executive committee, its Integrity and Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) and RFP, are cited as first to third respondents, respectively.

The MPs are represented by Advocate Rasekoai Thoahlane, while Advocates Motiea Teele King’s Counsel (KC) and Letuka Molati represent the respondents.

Both parties convened in Justice Moahloli’s chambers yesterday and agreed they should file their submissions regarding the urgency of the matter and then argue the submissions on Friday afternoon.

In her founding affidavit filed on behalf of herself and Mr Makhalanyane, Dr Phamotse submits they both received letters last Thursday in which they were charged with violating the party’s constitution and called to appear before a disciplinary hearing panel on 19 August 2023.

Dr Phamotse further tells the court that on the same Thursday, they wrote to RFP secretary general, Nthati Moorosi, raising concerns that the disciplinary hearings had been convened in violation of the party’s constitution.

“…We went further to seek to be provided with further particulars that would enable us to prepare our defences to the laid charges. In the said letters, the second applicant and I had requested that the further particulars be provided on 18 August 2023, so that we prepare ourselves for the hearing scheduled for the 19th. It must be stated that there was never any response to our requests,” Dr Phamotse’s affidavit reads.

Dr Phamotse also said on the day of the hearing, she arrived at the RFP offices at Mpilo Boutique in the company of Moliehi Ralikoche, who is an RFP member from her Matlakeng constituency. This, she added, was in line with the disciplinary hearing invitation letter which said she would be allowed to bring one member of the RFP as her witness.

Dr Phamotse said to her surprise, Ms Ralikoche was not allowed to be part of the disciplinary hearing and when she decided to leave the hearing in protest, she was served with another letter an hour later, suspending her from the party.

“The chairperson read the letter of invitation that contained the charges. After the reading, I stated that I had asked to be provided with further particulars that would enable me to defend myself. I was informed by the chairperson of the disciplinary committee that I should just respond to the charges as they were.

“I further raised a point to the panel that the disciplinary proceedings were instituted in violation of the constitution of the party; they ejected my arguments and told me to go to court if I had legal problems. At that juncture, the chairperson then asked the capacity of my companion Moliehi. I informed the chairperson that the letter of invitation stated that I was allowed to be accompanied or be represented by a fellow member of the RFP. The chairperson then made the decision that Moliehi should leave. I objected strenuously, there was clear divergence and at that point, I informed the panel that I was not prepared to be subjected to a process that was so grossly unfair and I left,” submits Dr Phamotse.

She also states that when she called Mr Makhalanyane inquiring about his earlier appearance before the same disciplinary committee, she learned that he had suffered the same fate and had also prematurely left the meeting.

“Just an hour or so after I left the proceedings, I received an email from the RFP executive committee. Attached in the email was a letter that informed me that my membership of the RFP had been suspended following recommendation by the disciplinary committee.

The letter then goes on to list the conditions of the suspension, which include that I should not visit constituencies of the party, hold meetings with my own constituency, represent the party in any formal or informal proceedings, that I should not make public pronouncements of issues that affect the party, that I should not hold secret meetings with MPs of the RFP and other party members, that I should not wear party regalia. I must state that when I received the letter, I was with Makhalanyane, and at that very same time, he received his letter, also by email,” she continues.

Dr Phamotse further argues the disciplinary proceedings were convened contrary to the constitution of the party.

“I aver that the disciplinary proceedings were convened contrary to section 13(b) of the RFP constitution which reads; …the integrity and dispute resolution committee shall have the power to establish its sub-structures at village or sub-branch, branch and constituency levels to discipline any member… Section 14(a) of the constitution provides that: any dispute within the Party shall be referred by any member to the integrity and dispute resolution committee at village, sub-branch, or constituency level as the case may be..” she further  argues in the affidavit.

She also claims that the right procedure was for the executive committee to establish a Dispute Resolution Committee which would have the power to establish its own structures at village, branch and constituency committee levels.

She also says any member who is aggrieved by any other member shall lodge a complaint at village or sub-branch level before going to the integrity committee. It is at that stage that the alleged perpetrator would be called by the integrity committee at sub-branch level to answer to the alleged transgressions, Dr Phamotse submits in the court document.

Dr Phamotse says there had never been any complaint levelled against her and Mr Makhalanyane by any member of the party, hence the disciplinary hearings convened against them were unlawful.

“The very fact that I have been invited to a hearing by the NEC and not the DRC is inconsistent with the constitution. Further, the constitution itself provides that the executive committee shall be seized with appeals that emanate from the findings of the DRC, it is an appellate structure within the disciplinary infrastructure of the RFP, and therefore cannot, at the same time, institute disciplinary proceedings, convene them and then preside over that matter on appeal. This is tantamount to being a referee and a player at the same time. I submit that this is a gross violation of my right to be heard in a fair and transparent process. I therefore humbly submit that the disciplinary proceedings in the case of both Makhalanyane and me were convened contrary to the provisions of the party’s constitution and shall be declared null and void and set aside,” Dr Phamotse states.

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