Thabane to warring ABC factions: withdraw court cases

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Limpho Sello

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has appealed to the warring party factions to withdraw the court cases they have filed against each other and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

Dr Thabane’s call comes against the background of two failed attempts to get the warring NECs to iron out their differences which threaten to split the ABC and even collapse the almost two year-old governing coalition where the ABC is the major partner.

The ABC has not known peace and stability in the aftermath of its 1 and 2 February 2019 elective conference which ushered in a new NEC with the outgoing National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao as the deputy leader.

But the ‘new’ NEC has not been able to assume office due to fierce resistance from the old NEC who say Prof Mahao is a newcomer who should not be in the driving seat to succeed Dr Thabane when the latter eventually leaves office. Prof Mahao and the rest of the new NEC’s election has since been nullified by the Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase. It also been challenged in the High Court by ABC cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana, Keketso Sello and ABC legislator Mohapi Mohapinyane on the grounds that there was massive vote rigging.

Despite postponing that case on several occasions, Justice Mahase stunned the Mahao faction on 8 May when she went on to deliver judgement in a separate but similar application that was brought before her by the unheralded trio of ABC members, Motseki Lefera, ’Matumisang Ntiisa and Martha Makhohlisa.

Justice Mahao nullified the ABC’s February conference and ruled that the old NEC should remain in office as the interim NEC for a year and during that time they should work on amending the ABC constitution to provide for the holding of NEC elections which it currently does not provide for.

The legal battles are however far from over as the Mahao faction has responded by lodging an appeal with the apex court for the rescission of Justice Mahase’s 8 May 2019 judgement which nullified their election as the NEC of the ruling party.

In addition to the court battles, the two factions have also taken their war to party supporters, holding competing rallies on a weekly basis to argue their case.

Speaking at a weekend rally in Mabote in the Maseru district, Dr Thabane implored the warring factions to withdraw their court cases against each other and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

“The truth that we cannot deny is that the ABC’s elective conference was marred by controversy and even on the day of the election we received a court order that one of the candidates (Prof Mahao) must be allowed to contest in the elections,” Dr Thabane said in reference to the 1 February 2019 Court of Appeal order that set aside Justice Mahase’s judgement which barred Prof Mahao from contesting.

“After the elections there was yet another court order that prevented the announcement of the elections results due to a compliant that was lodged by other people (Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane) who had expressed their concern on the same elections.

“At this juncture, I therefore appeal to the ABC followers to stop dragging the ABC issues to court.

“I ask that you forge an agreement that will be presented before the judges for confirmation and thereafter we can all look into the party issues to determine how we go forward. This is what we are supposed to do for the survival of the ABC. Ladies and gentlemen you need to understand the power of unity. You will not defeat the enemy when you are divided.

“I want to appeal specifically to those ladies and gentlemen (Mahao faction) who feel that justice has not been served because they have been denied access into office. Let us rise above this situation and put the ABC first. Let us agree that your comrades (old NEC) have concerns. You (Mahao faction) need to recall that I recommended that the elective conference to abide by the Court of Appeal order (that stated that Prof Mahao should be allowed to contest) even when it was submitted when the conference had already convened. So in the same manner, let us accept that there are factions (old NEC and the others who have challenged the election of Prof Mahao and others) that are not satisfied with the outcome of the elective conference.”

Dr Thabane said it was imperative for the ABC to properly handle its dispute, failing which the nation will lose trust in the party which is the biggest in the governing coalition. Other parties in the coalition are Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats, Communications minister Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party and Labour minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

His call for dialogue was however received with skepticism by the Mahao camp. The spokesperson for the Mahao faction, Montoeli Masoetsa, said it was the other old NEC faction which had to withdraw their cases as they were the ones who had filed lawsuits challenging their election to the party’s NEC. Mr Masoetsa said even if the cases were withdrawn, he did not foresee any talks succeeding.

“I do not know which cases we are asked to withdraw because we have not filed a case in court. We only went to court to defend ourselves. Those who have filed cases should withdraw them and we don’t have a problem with that because we were only defendants,” Mr Masoetsa said.

The Mahao faction has since lodged an appeal against Justice Mahase’s 8 May judgement with the Court of Appeal.

He said he did not believe there was still room for talks, adding that the only solution for the ABC was to wait to wait on the Court of Appeal to decide on their appeal against Justice Mahase’s judgement.

“If the Court of Appeal rules in their favour we will respect the decision and it the ruling is in our favour, everything will depend on whether or not they will observe the judgement and accept our leadership,” he said.

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