Motion to unseat premier: DC MP in the dock



MASERU – Democratic Congress (DC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Makhaleng constituency, Mootsi Lehata took a stand in the High Court on Wednesday this week to shed light on why his lawyers were unable to represent him in the ongoing case challenging a motion of confidence against Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane. The MP was quizzed on what should happen to the case as his lawyers threatened to withdraw their services and came to court unprepared to argue the case on Wednesday this week.

He was told that courts have very busy schedules but prioritized their case like the rest of other constitutional cases. One of the presiding judges, Justice Molefi Makara, said they have had to leave cases of ordinary Basotho due to the importance of the case before them and that the postponements cannot be allowed to continue any further.

Justice Makara reminded Lehata that his was an application to have the matter expedited, the effect of which resulted in the three judges leaving other cases to focus on the constitutional challenge against the motion of no confidence. “Your case raises an intriguing question of the constitutionality of a constitutional provision; it’s a very serious matter that the nation is eager to know about so the question is: how should we expeditiously prosecute this case?” Justice Makara asked.

Lehata had to take the stand and answer the question after his lawyers: Attorney Monaheng Rasekoai and Advocate Christopher Lephuthing threatened to withdraw their services, not only for Lehata, but for all opposition political parties cited in the application by Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP Lejone Puseletso to block a motion of confidence against Matekane. The lawyers said there was a professional breakdown with clients.

Attorney Rasekoai addressed the court before Lehata was called in to explain himself. He told the court that it’s been close to two weeks trying to solve an impasse between him and clients to no avail and that, as a result, Rasekoai and is advocate are unable to continue representing their clients.

Rasekoai submitted that it was not an easy task resolving not to continue representing clients because of the responsibility and duty he owes to the courts and the Constitution but said clients also have a duty and obligation to assist lawyers to carry out their mandate.

In the event that clients and practitioners find themselves at cross purposes with each other he said there is an obligation from either side to withdraw.  “The lawyer will be inclined to withdraw in line with prescribed rules and even the client has to withdraw in line with the specified rules,” he said.

However, Rasekoai said they still had not reached an agreement until the case was due for hearing on Wednesday this week, thereby forcing a postponement. “My lords, we were not even able to follow prescribed rules pertaining to the withdrawal application because of the impasse between ourselves and clients,” he said.

He concluded: “As a result, we are incapacitated to continue with the matter today and we have two proposals subject to what the court will say given the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We propose that we be allowed to file a substantive application for our withdrawal or we be given a chance to attempt to mend our relationship with clients. We regret the state of affairs, especially in a case of this magnitude knowing they always bring attention to the courts.”  

Public Eye understands that the impasse was due to failure to pay legal fees. When Lehata finally took the stand, he apologized for the way things had turned out and promised that by the next hearing date, he would have ironed things out with his lawyers.

“By ironing things, do you mean reconciling with them?” Justice Molefi Makara asked, to which Lehata replied, “Yes”.  The court then agreed to a postponement. In the case, Puseletso has asked the High Court (sitting as the Constitutional Court) to defer the motion of no confidence against Matekane’s government until the conclusion of the reforms process in which Parliament shall promulgate provisions to regulate the passing of a vote of no confidence.

He also wants the court to nullify the 9th amendment to the constitution which basically removed an option a sitting Prime Minister had to call for elections when confronted with a motion of no confidence. He says the amendment violates the basic structure of the constitution. The Thaba-Moea legislator argues that when section 87(5) (a) of the Constitution was amended and removed the power of the Prime Minister under the old section to opt for the dissolution of parliament in the event of the vote of no confidence being passed, the process has not only nullified the Prime Minister’s rights to advise the King to dissolve the parliament but also the right of the public to participate to determine their own government.

“The right to be exercised in forming government has been given exclusively to the members of parliament who no longer to get a fresh mandate but decide on blank cheque by themselves as to who should be the Prime Minister, contrary to how the electorate had elected.”

For as long as the situation prevails, pending the promulgation of the Reforms Act and extensive amendments to the Constitution, he claims that there is violation to the basic structure of the Constitution provided for in section 1 of the Constitution.

Lehata had launched a counter application asking the court to urgently hear the matter but the court consolidated his application with that of Lejone and ruled that they would both be treated as urgent. Two months later, the matter remains pending before the court.

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