MASERU — The Court of Appeal on Monday ruled that the Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress Party are one and the same entity ending a month-old row over the name of the party.
The judgment means Thulo Mahlakeng remains the legitimate and only leader of the BCP which had been torn by bitter factional fights.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Mahlakeng was correct in insisting his nemesis, Matsobane Putsoa and Ntsukunyane Mphanya, were wrong to suggest the Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress party were two different entities.
Putsoa and Mphanya, supported by a committee of 17 members, had planned to hold a special conference this January to elect a new national executive committee of the Basutoland Congress Party while sidelining Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party executive committee.
They also wanted to register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as a different entity from the Basotho Congress Party, saying Mahlakeng had formed “a thing of his” that had no connection with their party.
They also wanted Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party to vacate the party headquarters in Maseru alleging the party did not have any offices.
The Putsoa-led faction also wanted to stop Mahlakeng and the Basotho Congress Party from collecting rentals from tenants at the party’s properties on account that the properties belonged to the Basutoland Congress Party.
However, the Court of Appeal’s President Justice Michael Ramodibedi on Monday ruled that the Basutoland Congress Party is still the Basotho Congress Party.
If Justice Ramodibedi had not ruled so, Putsoa and Mphanya would have held their elective conference and ousted Mahlakeng from the party offices.
Mahlakeng would also found himself struck out of the party’s candidate list for the 2012 general election.
Putsoa’s faction had asked for an order which would have restrained the IEC and the Registrar of the Societies from dealing with the affairs of the Basotho Congress Party after the High Court had last year ruled that Basotho Congress Party and the Basutoland Congress Party were two different entities.
Following this ruling, the faction led by Putsoa and Mphanya began arrangement to prepare for an annual general meeting to elect their party’s national executive committee.
Mahlakeng appealed against the High Court decision.
Mahlakeng, amongst other things, contended that the conduct of Putsoa, Mphanya and their committee of 17 members was unlawful and would result in the breach of peace.
He argued that the Basutoland Congress Party, had lawfully changed the English version of their name to Basotho Congress Party some years ago, and had been conducting its business as such for a long period of time.
He said the three respondents had not raised any objections to the matter.
The respondents’ case was that Mahlakeng and a few individuals “have usurped the administration and property of Basutoland Congress Party and have unconstitutionally renamed it as Basotho Congress Party”.
However Mahlakeng’s lawyer, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, in his brief before the Court of Appeal said “there is only one organisation constituting the subject matter of these proceedings.”
“The dispute does not relate to persona but the name,” Mda said.
Mda argued that no evidence had been shown to prove that the Basotho Congress Party was established as a distinct name from Basutoland Congress Party other than the alleged change of name.
“It accords with logic and common sense that appellant is registered under the same number which Basutoland Congress Party was registered namely, No. 69/10.
Mda argued that the order of the High Court ought to have been set aside.
Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai, on behalf respondents, argued that the issue is not so much about the identity, but the name.
He argued that the case was that there were two separate names. He strove to show that even the High Court had shown there are two parties.
Answering questions from the court Advocate Rasekoai admitted that while the respondents were dissatisfied with management of the party they did not go to court to seek relief.
Reasons for the judgment were reserved until February 10.