The High Court is tomorrow expected to hear a case in which Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general, Lesojane Leuta, is challenging his suspension from the party.
The BNP indefinitely suspended Mr Leuta on 26 February for allegedly submitting an unsanctioned Proportional Representation (PR) list of the party to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), ahead of the 28 February 2015 snap elections.
The party had since taken legal action against Mr Leuta for the submission but the High Court on 18 February dismissed the case, on the basis that the person who filed the application, party chairperson Nthabiseng Makoae, did not have the authority to do so.
But a day after the judgment, the party’s deputy leader, Joang Molapo, informed Mr Leuta, who was sworn-in as a Member of Parliament (MP) on Tuesday this week as he was fifth on the BNP PR list, that disciplinary action would be taken against him over the same issue. The notification was followed by a suspension letter dated 26 February, and signed by Chief Molapo.
However, in response, Mr Leuta, through his lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane, on 6 March filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking an order declaring the suspension “null and void and of no legal force and effect”.
Mr Leuta further wanted the court to “restrain and interdict” Chief Molapo from “interfering in any manner whatsoever with his membership, duties and functions in the BNP and its National Executive Committee (NEC)”, and cites the party’s NEC, BNP and Chief Molapo as first to third respondent, respectively.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Leuta explains that sometime last month, he was instructed by BNP leader, Thesele ’Maseribane, “to whom I am accountable in terms of Section 8 (5) (i) of the constitution of the BNP, to prepare a final PR list to be submitted to the IEC in terms of the Electoral Law of Lesotho.”
Mr Leuta added he later sent the list to Chief Molapo for comment, in line with Chief ‘Maseribane’s orders.
He noted in the affidavit: “The list was duly delivered to the leader (Chief Molapo) and when he did not comment, I proceeded, as it is my duty to do so, and submitted it to the IEC.
“(However) the instruction and compliance therein, set out herein above, apparently did not sit well with some members of the second respondent. I was subsequently instructed to write yet another letter withdrawing the final list aforesaid, which I did. The withdrawal was, however, not accepted by the IEC for various reasons, including the fact that it was too late to do so.
“The list eventually became a subject for litigation. The said application was opposed by the IEC and myself and was eventually dismissed by the Honourable Court on 18 February 2015.
“It is worth noting at this stage that I had, prior to the hearing of the said application, been instructed by the third respondent to withdraw my opposition to the application wherein I had been cited as the respondent, and I had declined to do so.
“Following the litigation referred to above, which litigation had been instituted against me and in which I had been successful, the third respondent still would not relent. On or about 19 February 2015, I received yet another letter from the third respondent purporting to act for and on behalf of the first and second respondents.
“In the letter, the third respondent notified me of what he called the intention by the second respondent to take disciplinary action against me and required me to show cause why that should not be done and I duly responded.
“I must point out at the outset that the notification letter aforesaid is fatally flawed in that there was never a meeting of the second respondent which resolved that the supposed disciplinary action be taken against me. If such a meeting had been called, the notification would have been issued by me. This never happened. Consequently, the notification aforesaid was a nullity.
“On or about 26 February 2015, I received yet another letter from the third respondent. In this letter, the third respondent purports to act for and on behalf of the second respondent, and claims he is convinced that disciplinary action should be taken against me.
“Furthermore, the third respondent purporting to act under Section 9 (12) of the BNP Constitution and again purporting to act on the advice of the second respondent, has purported to suspend me from the second respondent and all duties of the first respondent with immediate effect.
“The purported suspension is null and void and of no legal force and effect for the following reasons: firstly, the third respondent has purported to exercise the powers which he does not have. The powers under Section 9 (12) of the constitution of the first respondent are specifically conferred on the leader of the BNP and not any other person.
“The leader of the BNP is and has, at all material times hereto, been present. I know this for a fact as the secretary general of the party. Consequently, the third respondent has acted ultra vires his powers. He has usurped the powers of the president of the party and that is not permissible in law.”
The suspension, Mr Leuta further noted, came at a critical time when party members on the PR list were due to be sworn-in as parliamentarians.
“I have reasons to believe that the purported suspension is but a ploy by the third respondent to have me excluded from party members due to be sworn-in as MPs,” Mr Leuta added.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times is reliably informed that Attorney Khotso Ntho-Ntho on Tuesday filed an answering affidavit on behalf of the respondents.
Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara is set to hear the case.