LCD ordered to hold special conference

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MASERU — The Court of Appeal on Tuesday ordered the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to hold a special conference. The ruling follows an appeal by three LCD members against a High Court ruling that dismissed their call for a special conference. The three are Rethabile Marumo, who is the MP for Mohobollo, Ramahoana Matlosa, the LCD youth league chairman for Maseru Constituency No.32 and Tšoeu Mokeretla, MP for Mashai. Justice Michael Ramodibedi, who is the president of the Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and ordered the NEC to hold the special conference as requested. “The appeal is upheld with costs including the costs consequent upon the employment of two counsel,” Justice Ramodibedi said. “The court a quo’s (High Court) order dismissing the appellants’ application with costs is set aside and replaced with the following order: “a) the first respondent (NEC) is hereby directed to convene a special general conference of the second respondent (LCD) for the purpose of deliberating on and resolving the issue of lack of confidence in the first respondent as requested by the 17 constituencies of the second respondent and filling the position of treasurer of the second respondent.” “The respondents are directed to inform the constituencies’ secretaries of the special general conference . . . at least 14 days before the conference,” the judge said.
The judgment brought to a halt a long-running saga that began in February after 17 constituencies expressed lack of confidence in the national executive committee. Justice Ramodibedi said the appellants’ allegation that the NEC had simply stonewalled and refused to call the special conference “should be accepted as correct”. “It is clear, as it seems to me, that in refusing to hold the special general conference the NEC is hiding behind Justice Majara’s order” which declared as unconstitutional a resolution by the leadership conference to hold a special conference which sought to issue a no-confidence motion in some and not all members of the NEC. The judge also noted that the NEC had resorted to raising “all sorts of technicalities such as lack of urgency and locus standi”. “Amazingly, it is apparent that in refusing to accede to the holding of a special general conference the NEC has taken the view that the call for such a conference is an insult to it.
“Obviously, the NEC does not consider such a call a fundamental principle of democracy which must be protected,” Justice Ramodibedi said. “Shockingly, still, it is now more than a whole year since the leadership conference of the party resolved to hold the conference in question.” He said it was regrettable that two honourable judges of the High Court had come to different conclusions on locus standi. The judge also said by refusing to call the special conference “the NEC has breached the constitution of the second respondent (LCD), thus entitling the court to intervene”. “It is indeed a serious breach of the constitution by the NEC that the second respondent has been without a treasurer for more than one year now which issue ought to have been resolved by calling a special general conference a long time ago,” Justice Ramodibedi said. He said under the party’s rules, the LCD should have called a special conference to fill the treasurer’s post following the resignation of Popane Lebesa in November last year. Lebesa resigned after he was fired as trade minister last year. Justice Ramodibedi said according to article 7.1.3 of the LCD constitution the NEC is “duty bound to call a special general conference”. “Indeed its intransigence in the matter is incomprehensible to me, having regard to the fact after receiving the petitions from the 17 constituencies it made preparations for the holding of the special general conference in question,” Justice Ramodibedi said. He agreed that the serious bickering and divisions within the LCD “can only be resolved by the membership of the party itself at the general conference”. “The remedy lies in the special general conference of the party itself. It certainly does not lie with the courts”.

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