SR appeals afresh in Court of Disputed Returns



MASERU – The Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) has launched a fresh application in the Court of Disputed Returns. This was in response to the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of their appeal, which sought to overturn High Court Judge Molefi Makara’s decision not to hear their complaint.

Justice Makara had earlier declined jurisdiction over a case where SR and its National Executive Committee (NEC) Chairperson, ’Mapali Molula, challenged the National Assembly Speaker, Tlohang Sekhamane’s appointment of Chabaseile Mabusela, a member of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), as a Member of Parliament.

This appointment followed the resignation of SR’s former deputy leader, ’Mamarame Matela. Mabusela was also part of the proportional representation list for the SR, during a pre-election agreement between the two parties. This agreement stipulated that MEC’s proportional representation list would include SR members, and vice versa. When Matela resigned as a Member of Parliament on October 20, 2024, Mabusela was sworn in as her replacement.

He was next in line on SR’s proportional representation list, according to the National Assembly Act of 2012. However, SR challenged this decision as the party argued that, following Matela’s resignation, her position should be filled by a woman, in order to match the zebra model, which mandates gender parity in Parliament. They claimed it was unconstitutional to deviate from this model.

SR’s contention was that since there was already a male SR representative in Parliament, namely Advocate Teboho Mojapela, the vacancy left by Matela, a female, should be filled by another female member. This stance was outlined in their submission to the High Court, asserting that replacing Matela with a male disrupted the gender balance required by the zebra model.

However, Justice Makara declined jurisdiction after hearing the matter on October 20, 2023, ruling that the party should have petitioned the Electoral Commission. He made the pronouncement on October 22, which led the complainants to file an appeal. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Justice Makara’s ruling. In a judgement delivered last Friday, the judges said while Justice Makara was correct in declining jurisdiction, the matter should not be decided by the Electoral Commission but rather by the Court of Disputed Returns, which is constituted by three High Court judges.

The Appeal Court dismissed SR’s appeal and directed the case to the Court of Disputed Returns. In their appeal, SR and Molula sought to have the Apex Court overturn Justice Makara’s judgement and declare that Mabusela’s appointment and swearing-in were null and void. The party will now present that argument before the Court of Disputed Returns. In an application filed on Monday this week, Molula insists that she is the rightful candidate to represent SR following Matela’s departure.

She argues that the pre-election agreement between SR and MEC is void for failing to comply with the requirements of the National Assembly Act. According to Molula, the IEC should have rejected the arrangement.

She noted: “The arrangement between Honourable Teboha Mojapela and Honourable Selibe Mochoboroane came about as a result of informal discussions between the two political leaders, the formality outlined under section 47 (8) read with section 47 (7) was flaunted (sic) to the latter in the absence of a declaration that creates, crafts and or fashions the purported alliance. The agreement between the two leaders is mere talk over tea that has no legal obligations. It was done without consultation, knowledge and blessing of the SR National Executive Committee (SR NEC). Consequently, it is not there in law.”

Section 47(7) of the National Assembly Act details the prerequisites for political parties wishing to form alliances. It requires that “in the case of an alliance, the declaration has to state that political parties shall have submitted a joint list of constituency candidates and a joint proportional representation list and the declaration shall also state that the alliance shall contest elections with one symbol.”

The complainants argue that Section 47 was not adhered to, claiming the alliance between Mojapela and Mochoboroane was formed without the proper authorisation from Mojapela. They contend that the inclusion of Chabaseile on the submitted list by SR is irregular due to this lack of formal mandate.

Molula asserts that Mabusela’s continued occupation of a seat in parliament discriminates against her on the basis of gender or sex and violates the zebra model, which mandates alternating male and female representation to ensure gender parity. She claims that, following the resignation of Matela, a female member, the position should rightfully be filled by another female, specifically herself, in accordance with the zebra model.

She argues: “The installation of a male, namely the 2nd Respondent, in the place of a female, violates and discriminates against the female gender and undermines equal representation of men and women in parliament as contemplated by the Zebra Model. Each time SR continues to have 100 percent male representation in Parliament, it violates the zebra model, which mandates 50 percent male and 50 percent female representation, thus disrupting the principle of gender parity or equality inside Parliament as female representation is not on par with male representation.”

The complainants are requesting the court to review and set aside the Speaker’s decision to recognise, appoint, and swear in Mabusela as an MP, which they claim unlawfully substituted Matela. They also seek a declaration that Molula is the rightful replacement for the resigned Matela and that the Speaker be directed to recognise her as such. Additionally, they are asking for the pre-election arrangement between MEC and SR to be nullified.

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