Lesotho: Hlaele Warns Thabane and Mahase

6 September 2019

"Expelled" All Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary general Lebohang Hlaele has described ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's latest bid to suspend and impeach Court of Appeal President, Justice Kananelo Mosito as a flagrant "misuse of power".

Mr Hlaele said Dr Thabane was in contempt of a previous court order interdicting him from suspending Justice Mosito and he warned the premier risked being thrown into jail for the alleged contempt.

Mr Hlalele also had no kind words for Acting Chief Justice 'Maseforo Mahase who he accused of meddling in the internal affairs of the fractious ABC party. He alleged that Justice Mahase had teamed up with the ABC faction loyal to Dr Thabane and issued adverse judgements against their faction led by "expelled" ABC deputy leader Professor Nqosa Mahao. He said Justice Mahase should brace for several lawsuits over her alleged meddling in ABC affairs to favour Dr Thabane and his allies. He made the remarks at an ABC rally early this week in Likotsi, Rothe, in the Maseru district.

Mr Hlaele is Dr Thabane's son-in law by virtue of his marriage to the premier's daughter, Advocate 'Mabatṧoeneng Hlaele (nee Thabane).

But the close family ties have not prevented a fallout between the two after Mr Hlaele sided with Prof Mahao in the aftermath of the ABC's February 2019 elective conference. Mr Hlaele, who won the secretary general's post, drew the ire of Dr Thabane when he sided with Prof Mahao who clinched the deputy leader's post. Prof Mahao was elected against the express wishes of Dr Thabane who said the former was a relative newcomer to the ABC who should not be parachuted to the second most powerful position ahead of more seasoned party stalwarts.

Mr Hlaele was sacked from his cabinet post of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Minister along with 'Matebatso Doti (who was sacked from the Social Development portfolio). Although Dr Thabane did not give reasons, it was obvious the duo were sacked in February this year for siding with Prof Mahao. Thereafter, ABC power struggle between Prof Mahao and Dr Thabane intensified and on 17 June 2019, Mr Hlaele, Ms Doti and Prof Mahao were "expelled" from the ABC for alleged insubordination after they held constituency rallies in apparent defiance of Dr Thabane's express orders barring them from doing so.

The ABC power struggle has also sucked in the Court of Appeal with Dr Thabane and other senior officials accusing the apex court of imposing Prof Mahao's candidature for the deputy leader's post.

Dr Thabane has also moved to impeach Court of Appeal president Justice Mosito, a move sharply criticised by Mr Hlaele at the weekend rally.

Mr Hlaele warned Dr Thabane against "misusing his powers" to oust Justice Mosito, saying the premier risked imprisonment for defying court orders not to suspend Justice Mosito until the finalisation of a Law Society of Lesotho Constitutional Court application for an order barring him (Dr Thabane) from impeaching Justice Mosito. The orders were issued by the High Court on 18 July 2019 and by the apex court on 7 August 2019.

Another interim interdict was issued by the Court of Appeal on 7 August 2019.

Mr Hlaele told the rally; "I have warned Ntate Thabane to leave Justice Mosito alone but he has refused to listen to me".

"The courts have also reiterated the same message and told him (Dr Thabane) to stop misusing his powers. His behaviour is in contempt of court and we all know that a person in contempt of court goes- to jail," Mr Hlaele said.

Mr Hlaele also accused Justice Mahase of meddling in the internal affairs of the ABC.

The "expelled" ABC secretary general has already filed a Constitutional Court application seeking the removal of Justice Mahase from the High Court on the grounds that she breached section 118 (2) of the national constitution by interfering with Justice Mosito's duties. Section 118 (2) of the constitution states that "the courts shall, in the performance of their functions, be independent and free from interference".

And on Sunday, Mr Hlaele warned Justice Mahase to brace for more lawsuits.

"We have not finished with you 'Maseforo, we are coming for you. You have enough personal lawsuits coming your way. We are not going to leave you alone, we are coming for you," Mr Hlaele warned. Mr Hlaele also castigated the ABC's legislator for Rothe, Mohapinyane Mohapi, saying the latter's absence from the rally was proof that he had ditched the constituents for the State House faction. The term "state house faction" has been used by the Mahao camp and other observers in reference to the ABC faction that backs Dr Thabane.

"I thought that he (Mr Mohapi) would attend this rally as it is in his constituency but he has not done so because he has taken sides. It is very clear where his allegiance lies and this goes to say that you erred by electing him in the past elections. So make sure next time you don't repeat the same mistake next time," Mr Hlaele said.

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