Thabane detractors fall on first hurdle

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Attempts by some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) National Executive Committee (NEC) to have party leader, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane out of the party, have fallen through. High Court judge, Justice Polo Banyane, on Thursday dismissed an application by Sekhonyana Mosemene and Thabo Sekonyela to declare the former premier unfit to lead the ABC.

The duo petitioned the High Court to declare Thabane unfit to lead the party a fortnight ago. They also asked the court to disqualify Thabane “from participating, acting, signing documents, attending meetings, making decisions and acts of similar nature on behalf of the party or about the party due to his state of health.”

The interdict, they argued should remain in force until a new party leader is elected. Lawyers from both sides appeared before judge Banyane on Monday arguing urgency and interim reliefs. In the interim, Mosemene and Sekhonyana asked that Thabane be interdicted from attending NEC meetings and making decisions on behalf of the party. Judge Banyane refused to grant the interim prayers, saying the circumstances do not favour granting of the reliefs.

She also ruled that there is no urgency to the case but that the case should follow the normal court process. While the ruling was in relation to the interims reliefs, she made it clear that the applicants’ interim reliefs and final reliefs are similar. “It will be observed that the interim relief sought is identical to the main relief, the effect of the interim relief is final.”

For this, the judge declined to offer any of the reliefs sought and dismissed the application with costs. She said it remains unclear whose right the applicants seek to protect by seeking party leader’s removal. “The rights which the applicants’ seek to protect in this matter are not immediately clear from the applicant’s founding affidavits, not only that, is it the right of the party, or the right of the state, they simply say the presence of the respondents causes them prejudice,” she added.

On the party leader’s health, Justice Banyane said “it is difficult to connect how Thabane’s ill health is prejudicial to the applicants because even if he were to take prejudicial decision, it is indisputable that any decision or action of a leader is something subject to the rectification of the National Executive committee.”

The judge also ruled that the party’s NEC is best placed to deal with the complainants the two applicants have presented to the court.

Advocate Letuka Molati, who represents the complainants, had asked the court to treat the matter with urgency during the arguments on Monday. He had also prayed that Thabane be banned from attending ABC NEC meetings because his health does not allow him to continue to lead the party.

He said “there are currently two factions of the ABC and the nature of the dispute between the two factions needs to be put to rest before it spills into government as there as a faction which is pushing for the withdrawal of the prime minister (Moeketsi Majoro), we pray that the court should treat this matter with urgency,”

However, Advocate Koili Ndebele who represents the respondents shot down the applicants’ arguments saying that they failed to present to the court any sense of urgency and how they stand to suffer individually, he then asked the court to treat the case as a normal litigation which should queue up at the High Court’s civil registry.

“The applicants seem to be arguing as the ABC NEC itself and do not tell the court how their rights are being affected. They do not have the right to be before court because there is no right being affected. The NEC has 20 members and we only happen to see two of them whereas the 18 are respondents in the matter.

“There are no minutes of February 8, 2021 to support the allegations of violence. It is true that my clients’ tenure expired in December 2020 but it was resolved that they continue to hold their positions but report to the secretary general (Lebohang Hlaele) because elections to replace them cannot be held due to Covid-19 restrictions. If they want to remove the leader, they can do that through a special conference or let the NEC resolve the issue,” Ndebele submitted.

Advocate Salemane Phafane represents Thabane and echoed similar sentiments saying that the applicants could not rely on Thabane’s illness of nine months ago.

“The applicants knew about the third respondent’s health problem nine months ago but only decided to wake up now and come to court. They know of the then state of his health and not the current. I dare them to prove Mr Thabane’s state of health now.

“There are so many disputes within various societies which are queuing up at the registry. Why should the applicants skip the queue? The two are just impatient and this is just a self-created urgency.

“Is it not their democratic right to hold their prime minister accountable? Who said the prime minister cannot come to court and protect his own rights? The applicants are just turning themselves into public busy bodies,” Advocate Phakane argued.

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