MASERU — A senior member of the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) has approached the High Court to force the party leadership to hold an elective conference.
Sello Molati, chairman of the BCP in Pela-Ts’oeu Constituency, argues that party chairman Thulo Mahlakeng’s committee, at the helm since 2005, has been in office illegally because an election was supposed to be held in 2007, according to the party’s constitution.
He cites the BCP as the first respondent and the National Executive Committee (NEC) as the second respondent in a case that is before Justice Semapo Peete.
Mahlakeng is appearing for the party and the executive committee.
BCP has failed to hold an elective conference since Mahlakeng got into office in 2005.
Molati, who claims to have been a party member since 1964, told the court on Monday in his evidence-in-chief that the NEC’s tenure ended in 2007.
He said a conference planned for 2008 was aborted and since then the party had failed to hold a special conference to elect a new executive committee.
The veteran politician wants the High Court to “direct the second respondent – the national executive committee of the Basotho Congress Party – to call a special conference for purposes of electing a new national executive committee”.
Molati also argued that the respondents had changed the name of the party from Basutoland Congress Party to Basotho Congress Party without a clear mandate from the 2005 conference.
Molati told the court that the Pela-Ts’oeu constituency through him and the secretary wrote to party secretary-general ‘Mateboho Noko on June 14, 2008 and in July of the same year requesting that a special conference be held.
The letters were ignored, he alleged.
He told the court that a constituency had a right to lodge such a request with the secretary-general who had to forward it to the executive committee in terms of section 13 (2) of the BCP constitution.
The BCP executive committee denies any existence of the constituency committee in the Pela-Ts’oeu that Molati claims to represent.
The court has summoned Noko to answer why the party failed to respond to letters written by Molati’s constituency requesting the executive committee to call for a special conference.
Asked by the court to reconcile the fact that he was calling the party the Basutoland Congress Party, yet in his court papers, he used the name Basotho Congress Party, Molati responded that the party was called Basutoland Congress Party until 2007 when members received party cards with a different name.
“After 2007 when we received our cards they were written Basotho Congress Party, and I think that gave me the right to do so, and I assumed that despite this nomenclature, the letter would reach the NEC,” he said.
Molati further told the court that the 2005 conference held at Bambatha Ts’ita Sports Arena had not agreed to the change of name.
When Mahlakeng pointed to him that he was part of the conference that deliberated on the change of the name at the 2005 conference, Molati said it was only a suggestion put to the conference by the Maputsoe constituency and no resolution was taken on this issue.
At the emotional hearing, Molati charged that Mahlakeng, a lawyer, was not a “leader” but an “obstruction blocking the traffic”.
This came after Justice Peete had sought clarification on the use of Sesotho words moetellipele and moetapele when referring to leaders.
Mahlakeng then stood up and offered an explanation that moetapele meant “majela-thoko or right wing” whereas moetellipele meant “someone who leads”.
Molati, still in the witness box, then charged at Mahlakeng saying: “Consistent with the explanation you have just given you are not a leader, but an obstruction, you are blocking the traffic.”
An angry Molati accused Mahlakeng of failing to organise the conference.
Leadership squabbles are not unique to the BCP.
Other parties such as Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy, its election ally, the National Independent Party as well as the Basotho National Party, are riddled with leadership squabbles, most which have ended in court.