Blow for Mahao

Blow for Mahao

………….Judge nullifies ABC’s February elections…………..

MASERU– JUSTICE ‘Maseforo Mahase could have dealt a deadly blow to Professor Nqosa Mahao’s camp after she nullified the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s February elective conference.
In an order yesterday Justice Mahase declared the elective conference “null and void”.
The judgement could spell doom for Professor Mahao’s committee which has been waiting in the wings to take over the party.
The order gives the old committee, led by Samonyane Ntsekele, authority to run the ABC until May next year.
The old committee has also been instructed to amend the party’s constitution to prepare for the election of a new leadership.
However, this judgement was not for the controversial case in which some members of the old committee were seeking to nullify the results of the elective conference on allegations that the number of delegates did not tally with the ballots cast.

That old case has been dragging in the courts for the past three months amid several postponements by Justice Mahase. The order issued yesterday afternoon is related to an urgent application filed before Justice Mahase by three ABC members who were also delegates at the conference.
Unlike the applicants in the old case the three were not challenging the results but the elective conference itself.

In papers filed on Monday the three argued that the conference should not have been held in the first place because the ABC constitution does not have a provision for such an elective conference.
Justice Mahase appeared to have instantly agreed with them and granted the order two days after the application was filed.
The old committee was the only respondent but did not oppose the application. Prof Mahao’s committee could not defend the case because they were not served the papers. The case was heard without their representatives despite that they have a direct interest in the outcome of the matter.
In granting the order Justice Mahase appears to have hit two birds with one stone. Now that she has declared the elective conference illegal it could logically follow that any challenge to its election results is academic.

Last night a shocked Prof Mahao’s camp vowed to fight back, describing the ruling as the “beginning of the second phase of the battle”.
Lebohang Hlaele, secretary general of the new committee, said the camp was not going to give up.
Describing Lesotho’s judiciary as “corrupted” and a “mess”, Hlaele said the application was the old committee’s “last legal trick” in its bid to cling on to power.
“It’s shocking that the only time we heard of the case was when we received the order. We were not served. Our courts need a surgical overhaul,” Hlaele said, adding that his team will meet lawyers today to craft a response.

Last night Ntsekele sounded relieved by the judgement. He said when he received the papers he quickly checked the party’s constitution to confirm its allegations.
He said he discovered that the applicants were correct because the “constitution does not have a provision for an elective conference or a clear stipulation on how the committee is elected”.
“It only talks about the election of a leader and not the executive committee,” Ntsekele said.

“When I consulted other committee members we realised that it would be a waste of resources to oppose the case because the constitution is clear.”
He claimed to have only discovered that “constitutional loophole” when he received the court papers.
The court order could have far reaching implications for the ABC.

If the ABC constitution does not have a provision for an elective conference it follows that even Ntsekele’s committee was installed through a defective process five years ago.
It also means that the committees since the party was formed in 2006 were not properly elected because they were creatures of the same elective conference that has been declared illegal.
Yet Justice Mahase’s order gives Ntsekele’s committee the mandate to amend the constitution.
For Ntsekele’s committee the order buys them time to deal with the party’s internal squabbles. It also gives them a free reign to plug holes in the constitution to possibly consolidate their grip on power.

They could also use the amendments to block opponents, particularly Prof Mahao whom they have described as a ‘Jonny-come-lately’ who wants to sneak into high office without following party procedures.
For Prof Mahao this is a major setback that could take another gruesome court battle to overturn.
It could also be an opportunity for the faction to reorganise their troops and launch a fresh bid for power. It appears Prof Mahao’s only viable option is to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Staff Reporter

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