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Applicants want court to declare premier unfit for office

Members of Lesotho parliament in a scuffle

April 7, 2020 4 min read

4 min read

The anxious public will only know next week Friday, April 17 whether Prime Minister Tom Thabane has no power, was wrong or should have not prorogued parliament as one of the precautions to prevent spread of Covid-19 in Lesotho. This after the High Court of Lesotho sitting as a Constitutional Court promised to deliver judgment in seven days period in a case in which a government gazette, Legal Notice No.21 of 2020 declaring prorogation of parliament is being challenged by the main opposition party and some ruling party parliamentarians. Both applicants and respondents’ lawyers wrapped up their arguments on Friday April 7 before Judge Sakoane Sakoane as presiding officer assisted by Judges Polo Banyane and Moroke Mokhesi.

If the bench will find in their favour, the applicants also request that on the basis of grounds that would find Dr Thabane to have acted wrongly, then he should also be declared as no longer fit and proper to hold the office of the Prime Minister of the country and therefore the King should cause for his dismissal and a new Prime Minister be appointed in line with the prescripts of the Constitution of Lesotho.

The applicants have insisted that they are rightfully before the court adding that the decision to prorogue the parliament by the Prime Minister is unconstitutional therefore should be declared null and void.

The applicants, which consist of Basotho National Party (BNP) – the third partner in the four party coalition government led by Prime Minister Thabane, Democratic Congress (DC) which is the main opposition party and some disgruntled members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) of Prime Minister Thabane - are seeking an interim relief to the effect that the operationalisation and execution of the Government Gazette, Legal Notice No.21 of 2020 “purported to be acting pursuant to Section 91 (3) of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 (as amended”) be stayed and or interdicted pending finalisation of this matter.

They are also seeking final reliefs in that the decision to prorogue parliament to the provisions of Section 91 (3) of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 (as amended) be reviewed, corrected and set aside. They are requesting that the above mentioned gazette be declared a nullity.

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They are further asking that the premier be interdicted from advising and or recommending prorogation of parliament to the King who is the third respondent in the matter, at the time and duration prescribed by law or for the duration chosen.

The applicants are seeking that it be declared that the collusion of the first and the second respondent who is the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Monyane Moleleki, leading up to the advice to prorogue parliament and actual publication of the decision in the gazette without the unanimous consent of the other coalition partners is unconstitutional and or unlawful.

They further ask that it be declared that the first and second respondents have put the office of the King into disrepute and lowered its esteem. They go on to ask that it be declared that the first respondent does not have the constitutional authority to advise and or recommend to the King that the parliament should be prorogued at the time and duration prescribed by law or the duration chosen with engagement and consultation with the coalition partners, engagement and endorsement of the executive, consultation with his own political party which is the first applicant.

Apart from reasoning that the political parties which are part of the applicants do not have a stand in the matter, and that the law of the country is on the side of the premier – as the prerequisites of Section 91 (3) of the Constitution were satisfied - the government argued that the premier acted reasonably when he prorogued parliament as his reason was to help contain COVID-19 pandemic and therefore the application should be dismissed as having no substance.

Adv. Motia Teele KC, argued on behalf of respondents that when proroguing parliament, the premier had public’s best interest at heart based on the Covid-19 pandemic as the government has responsibility to ensure safety of the nation and better health.

He said since one of the containment strategies against the spread of Covid-19 is that there shall be no gatherings of more than 50 people on one place at the same time it would not be right for members of parliament who are 120 to meet under the current situation.

The three months prorogation time frame, according to Adv Teele is reasonable because there is no certainty as to when the pandemic will end.


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