Chieftainship dispute thickens

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MASERU — The ’Mamathe chieftainship dispute took a fresh twist yesterday after the Constitutional Court allowed Senate Masupha the right to intervene in an application before the High Court.

Three Constitutional Court judges — Justices Tšeliso Monaphathi, ’Maseforo Mahase and acting judge Justice Lebohang Molete — ruled that in order to argue the application in the main case holistically, Senate should be allowed to intervene.

“The applicant (Senate) be and is hereby permitted to intervene in CIV/A/24/2011 as co-respondent,” the court ruled.

Senate is seeking to be named principal chief.

She wanted to intervene in a case in which her half-brother, Lepoqo Masupha, and their paternal uncle, Sempe Masupha, are locked in a fight for the chieftainship of Ha-’Mamathe, Thupa-kubu and Jorotane.

Both men and the woman claim to be heirs to the chieftainship.

Senate claims in court papers that the men did not involve her when they filed their case in the Berea Magistrate’s Court merely because she was a woman.

She also wants the High Court to declare the Chieftainship Act unconstitutional because it deprives her of the right to inherit the chieftainship on the basis that she is a woman.

Other respondents who have been cited include the senior resident magistrate for the Berea subordinate court who dismissed her application to intervene in the case between Lepoqo and Sempe.

The Ha-’Mamathe chieftainship row was initially between Lepoqo and Sempe following the death of ’Masenate Masupha in 2008.

When the Teya-teyaneng Magistrate’s Court was due to make a ruling on the case in 2010, Senate filed an urgent application asking to be declared the heir to the chieftainship.

Senate’s High Court order was brought to the Teya-teyaneng Magistrate’s Court just hours before judgment was to be delivered on the case between her half-brother and uncle.

The submission by her legal representative, Advocate Kananelo Mosito, blocked a ruling that could have made either Lepoqo or Sempe the principal chief.

Addressing the court, Advocate Mosito said both the plaintiff, Chief Sempe Masupha and the first defendant, Lepoqo Masupha, did not have the right to assume the ’Mamathe chieftainship.

Mosito added that his client was the sole heir to the ’Mamathe chieftainship.

At present the acting chief of Ha-’Mamathe is Majara Masupha, a relative appointed by the Masupha family while the case drags on.

Senate is the first female child of the late Chief David Gabasheane Masupha and ’Masenate.

She said excluding her on the basis of her gender would be inconsistent with sections of the constitution of Lesotho and this amounted to discrimination against her on the basis of sex.

Senate’s team of lawyers include Advocate Gwako Hamilton Maenethe SC for Amicus Curae (friends of the court), Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) which is supporting her.

SALC filed submissions in the Constitutional Court challenging the blanket denial of women to succeed to the chieftainship.

It wants the court to declare the relevant sections of the Chieftainship Act unconstitutional.

SALC argue’s the law under which Senate is being barred from assuming the chieftainship is unconstitutional under Lesotho’s Constitution as well as under Lesotho’s international and regional obligations.

The submissions also document how laws that discriminate against women significantly harm the government’s ability to effectively respond to Lesotho’s HIV epidemic.

The case was postponed to May 9, 10 and 11.

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