BNP leader faces jail for contempt

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MASERU — Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane could be jailed for contempt of court for failing to convene a special conference in August.

So could the BNP secretary general Ranthomeng Matete and other members of the former ruling party’s executive committee.

This is after Justice ’Maseforo Mahase on Monday found that the BNP executive had disregarded a June 23 High Court judgment that ordered the executive to hold the special conference.

She said she was yet to write the judgment and would hand down the penalty at a later date.

In granting Molapo’s application on Monday, with the BNP executive committee noticeably absent, Justice Mahase told the court that she was tired of people who “act in contempt of court”.

“What country is this where people do not uphold the law, where decisions made by the courts are undermined?” Justice Mahase charged.

“Do these people think I’m a fool, that by sitting here I am wasting my time? Do they take me for a doll?”

According to Mahase, it was surprising that both parties had initially indicated that the matter was urgent only for them to now drag their feet.

“The two sides initially indicated that the matter was urgent. But suddenly some of them decide to act in contempt of the court. It seems this business is not of urgency anymore,” Justice Mahase said.

Justice Mahase had ordered the party’s executive committee to convene a new elective conference within 60 days of the judgment after she had declared the BNP’s
April elective conference “irregular, null and void”.

But the 60 days lapsed without the executive committee calling a conference or indicating that it was planning to hold one.

In papers filed at the High Court on August 31, Molapo who nurses ambitions to lead the former ruling party said ’Maseribane and his committee members should be “committed to jail” for failing to organise the party’s elective conference as ordered by Justice Mahase.

Molapo had challenged the legality of the April 25 – 27 conference that saw ’Maseribane elected BNP leader.

He replaced Metsing Lekhanya who was booted out last December after 11 tumultuous years in power.

Molapo was one of the seven candidates who were contesting for the party’s leadership position but pulled out of the race days before the conference.

He then filed an urgent application with the High Court seeking to block the conference.

His application was heard on the day of the conference.

The court ruled that since the conference was already in progress it must be allowed to proceed.

It however indicated that Molapo could still challenge its legality.

And when he did the court ruled in his favour and declared the conference “irregular, null and void”.

That ruling nullified the election of ’Maseribane and his committee.

According to Justice Mahase’s ruling the BNP executive committee was supposed to have held the new conference on or before August 27.

When that did not happen Molapo filed a notice to lodge a contempt of court application against ’Maseribane and his committee on August 31.

Molapo told the Lesotho Times this week that he was “on top of the stars” following Justice Mahase’s judgment.

“I have at long last been vindicated. I will appreciate any penalty. I will whole-heartedly accept it if those people were to be jailed,” Molapo said of the BNP executive
committee.

“This will also serve as a lesson to those who undermined me to tread carefully and start respecting me.”

Molapo also warned ‘Maseribane and his colleagues against hoping to maneuver their way out of the judgment by seeking an appeal.

“I hope they will not be misled into falling into another ditch of attempting to subvert the law by lingering on the fake hope of seeking an appeal against the judgment,”
Molapo said.

Meanwhile ‘Maseribane told this paper yesterday that the BNP executive was not going to“take this matter lying down”.

“We’re at the Court of Appeal as we speak. We’re here to seek an appeal to Justice Mahase’s Monday’s judgment,” ’Maseribane said.

“How has she found us to be guilty for contempt of court? On what grounds has the judge based her ruling?”

According to ‘Maseribane, Justice Mahase was biased in her ruling because the BNP executive had provided reasons why it had not convened the conference in question.

“In our replying affidavit to Majara Molapo’s contempt of court application, we provided reasons why the conference was not convened,” Maseribane said.

“We were never given a platform to state our case. But all of a sudden we are found to be in contempt of court.”

“Courts have the responsibility to assess all sides before issuing judgments, but obviously not in this case. Is there any justice in this matter?”

Matete said he was shocked to hear of Monday’s judgment because “we were not even aware it would be handed over”.

“We have no idea how Justice Mahase could issue a judgment when we did not even know that she would be doing it on the day,” Matete said.

“We’re here to seek an appeal against the judgment, for the Appeal Court to explain her decision and what it means.”

However, a notice of a “set down” dated September 27 which appears to have been received and signed for by the BNP legal team, K E M Chambers on September 27 and seen by the Lesotho Times, indicates that the BNP executive knew of the court’s sitting on October 3.

“Kindly take notice that the above matter has been set down for hearing on 3rd October 2011 at 08:30 am or soon thereafter as the matter may conveniently be heard,” the notice reads.

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