Thabane attacks Court of Appeal, Mahao

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  • says the court-imposed Prof Mahao on the party

Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has attacked the Court of Appeal for its 1 February 2019 judgement which enabled Professor Nqosa Mahao to contest in the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s national executive committee (NEC) elections last month.

Dr Thabane accused the apex court of meddling in the party’s affairs and warned that the alleged interference could split the ABC if its members did not urgently come up with internal remedies to their own differences.

Dr Thabane said this while addressing members of the ABC’s youth league from the Berea, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong districts on Saturday night in Hlotse, Leribe.

This was his first official address on the 1 and 2 February 2019 ABC elective conference which ushered in the likes of National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as deputy leader and former Law and Constitutional Affairs minister Lebogang Hlaele as secretary general.

Dr Thabane also used the occasion to attack Prof Mahao for contesting the deputy leader’s position despite the spirited efforts to disqualify and even expel him from the party. In the run-up to the ABC polls, Dr Thabane publicly attacked Prof Mahao describing him as a “useless rag” that should never be allowed to succeed him. This time the premier did not mention Prof Mahao by name.

It was however, clear that he was referring to Prof Mahao when he spoke of an individual who was imposed on the party by the courts and was only able to contest the ABC polls due to a court ruling after the party had disqualified him. Prof Mahao was initially disqualified from contesting and only did so courtesy of a last-minute Court of Appeal ruling against his disqualification.

In the deputy leadership contest, Prof Mahao beat a strong field of more seasoned ABC politicians that included the likes of Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

Others who were elected into the new NEC are Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).

However, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have not been able to assume office due to resistance from the old NEC as well as the court challenge by three ABC legislators, Habofanoe Lehana (Khafung), Keketso Sello (Hlotse) and Mohapi Mohapinyane (Rothe).

Immediately after the elections, the old NEC refused to hand over the office keys to the new NEC while the trio launched their court action.  Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane have since been granted an interim order barring the new NEC from taking over until after the finalisation of their main application for the nullification of the 1-2 February 2019 poll results.

The trio have argued that the elections were marred by gross irregularities and as a consequence, they could not have produced a “credible outcome”.

Prof Mahao, who was initially disqualified from contesting on the grounds that he had not served long enough in the party structures, had an 11th hour Court of Appeal verdict to thank for his participation in the ABC polls.

Upon being nominated by the ABC’s Koro-Koro Constituency Committee, Prof Mahao was disqualified by the then ABC’s national executive committee (NEC).

He was disqualified on the grounds that he had not “served at the party’s branch and constituency levels for at least 24 and 36 months” respectively as required by the ABC constitution.

The Koro-Koro committee however, challenged the ABC’s decision in the High Court and lost the case on 13 January 2019.

The Koro-Koro committee subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal who ruled against Prof Mahao’s disqualification on 1 February, the very day that the ABC’s elective conference got underway.

This paved the way for Prof Mahao’s last minute inclusion in the contest which he eventually won.

But the verdict of the Court of Appeal bench which included the apex court’s president Justice Kananelo Mosito has proved a bitter pill to swallow for members of the old NEC.

And on Saturday, Dr Thabane added his voice to the old NEC’s chorus of condemnation of the decision, saying the ABC faced serious internal challenges and it could split due to the court’s alleged interference in its internal affairs.

“Today we are holding our first conference (after the elections) to discuss issues affecting young people. I stand here to talk about the ABC issues, the status of those issues now, how and why they are where they are now,” Dr Thabane told the youths.

He said leading the ABC- a party of men and women of intellectual prowess — had never been a stroll in the park.

He said the exponential growth of the party since its formation in 2006 had not made things any easier for him and that the leading the ABC was a task that required one to be humble, patient and always depend on God’s wisdom.

“It is against this background that I must thank God for protecting and guiding me. It is not of my own making that the party has grown this much and it is in government 12 years after its establishment. Other parties only got to be in government more than 20 years after their establishment while others have never been in government.

“The youth are witnesses to the fact that the revolutionary struggle or journey is full of tough challenges and full of thorns that prickle you along the way. The ABC has gone through these turbulent challenges but God has been with us and we are therefore thankful to Him.

“But today a storm has erupted within the party and we are fighting among ourselves. There is a dark cloud of infighting and misunderstanding hoovering around. I don’t know the root causes of the infighting and I keeping wondering if those in heaven have rested, allowing the devil to hoof around.

“I take serious offence when Satan attacks our children, he should come here to fight with us, his age mates. All of you youths come from a Christian family and there is none among you who do not know the biblical verse that a young person should respect their father and mother to earn favour in the eyes of God,” Dr Thabane said.

The premier was speaking ahead of his first rally since the elective conference which he addressed the next day in the Likhoele constituency in Mafeteng. He seized the opportunity to invite all the youth league members to the Sunday rally which was graced by senior ABC officials from the old NEC faction.

Dr Thabane told the youths that many ABC members had sacrificed so much for the party and it pained him that the party was now riven with internal disputes.

“Every time I go deep in thought thinking about this (the sacrifices and suffering ABC members had to go through) and my heart bleeds. Youth league members, I am ordering you to work hard to protect this party.

“You must work hard to unite this party which is facing serious challenges of being split by the courts of law. When we say that someone (Prof Mahao) does not have a right to stand for elections, they (the courts) suspend our constitution, issuing court orders that give someone access to stand for national executive committee elections.

“We will not allow the courts of law to deal with ABC issues, we will deal with the issues on our own. When someone tries to stand for elections in the constituency and loses, he goes to the court which gives an order that we, the owners of this party, have erred and that the applicant should stand for elections.

“My free advice to you is that this will be the end of you (as a party) if you don’t deal with your issues among yourselves. The world doesn’t start and end with people being in party committees, neither does it start and end with being a member of parliament, a minister or prime minister. My premiership will soon come to an end,” Dr Thabane said.

But even as Dr Thabane expressed his disdain for the courts and their impact on ABC affairs, the party has no choice but to once again seek the courts’ intervention after the two factions failed to resolve their differences.

The Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase on 7 March, gave the two NEC factions until 19 March 2019 to settle their differences out of court, failing which, she would have to hear the petition that was filed by Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane seeking the nullification of the results of the 1 and 2 February ABC’s NEC polls.

The negotiations between the two factions were still-born and yesterday the High Court was left with no choice but to begin hearing both sides’ lawyers’ arguments.

Judgement will be handed down on 29 March and in the event that it goes against them, Prof Mahao has indicated that he will go back to the Court of Appeal — the very court whose previous rulings in connection with the ABC have irked Dr Thabane and others in the old NEC.

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