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Rakuane, NRA court battle continues

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…as Authority wins urgency application bid

Mohloai Mpesi

The National Reforms Authority (NRA) has won an urgent application where they sought the High Court to urgently hear their matter against government.

The matter was heard before Justice Polo Banyane earlier this week where she handed down a ruling that the matter bears public interest thus should be granted urgency.

The court was approached for intervention by the Authority after the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lekhetho Rakuoane declined the Authority’s request to extend their period, further advising Cabinet to dissolve the NRA as its time has lapsed.    

The life of the Authority was extended in November last year with a further period of six-month which was set to expire at the end of last month by which time the minister had advised Cabinet to go ahead and disband the Authority, a feat provoked it to swiftly seek the court’s intervention to hear the matter on urgent basis.  

The Authority stated that there are outstanding matters to be dealt with arguing that the decision for dissolution of NRA is based on misinterpretations of founding legal provisions.

Attorney Qhalehang Letsika who was arguing on behalf of NRA, contended that the reforms process is a matter of national interest, not only because many national activities have been put on hold pending finalisation of the process but because it has also attracted international interest.

While on the other hand, Advocate Thabo Thakalekoala for the respondents, had opposed the public importance attached to a given matter or dispute is not singly decisive and that the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter must also be factored in while deciding whether accelerated hearing is justified.

He further relied on the interpretation of the provisions of rule 8 (22) of High Court rules of 1980 to submit that the applicant failed to meet the requirement of the rule and consequently the application should not be granted preferential treatment and interpose on the top of the queue.

Thakalekoala added that the applicants have delayed in instituting the proceeding since they knew from November 2021 that the life of NRA would come to an end on April 30, 2022, thus they have created their own urgency.

In ruling Justice Banyane said the court’s discretion to abridge the time prescribed and to accelerate hearing in matters ought to be exercised upon sufficient and satisfactory grounds as in the matter, the applicant satisfactory shown.

“Major considerations in the exercise of these discretions are; prejudice that the applicant might suffer by having to wait for a hearing in the ordinary course, prejudice that the other litigants might suffer if the applicant is given preference and prejudice that the respondent might suffer by the abridgement of the prescribed time and early hearing.                    

“Allied to this is that the matter is important and in the public interest that it be resolved expeditiously,’ she said.

She said the determination must be guided by the vision of the National Reforms Agenda and the principle guiding the reforms process of which the vision of the authority captured; is the transformation of the Kingdom of Lesotho into a just, prosperous and stable country marked by effective and people-focused-institutions, national unity, rule of law, good governance and human rights.

She added that, “Inclusiveness and participation of all Basotho regardless of their political, social or other status as well as national ownership of the reforms are some of the guiding principles of the reforms process.”

“The prayer on dispensation is accordingly granted, and in the results the respondents are ordered to file their opposing affidavits within 10 days of the granting of this order. The applicants are to file their reply within three days after receipt of opposing papers and in the meantime, the matter is sent for allocation,” she said.

The judgment comes at the backdrop of the Authority lodging their application to the court calling the minister to show cause why the decision of the cabinet to dissolve NRA… “Is hereby stayed pending finalisation hereof.

The application further sought Rakuane or any member of the executive to not deprive the Chairperson of the National Reforms Authority, the Deputy Chairperson of the Authority, the Chief Executive Officer of the NRA and the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of vehicles currently in their possession pending finalization of the application.

Despite the legal rout that the Authority has taken, Rakuoane indicated that cabinet was intent on going all the way through with its stance as indicated in its willingness to oppose the matter.   

He told this publication earlier this week that they are going to defend the Authority’s application in court which sought to seize and reverse Cabinet decision to dissolve NRA.

“We are defending their application in court and this matter is now in court and I have released a legal notice in a gazette that dissolves the Authority which they approached the court to challenge,” Rakuoane said.

He said as much as the government would like to see the Authority continue with its mandated task, they are bound by law to dissolve the Authority.

“The law says NRA will work for 12 months and they can request further six months to make it 18 months. But from then they can only be given extension if one of their laws makes a Royal Assent. None of those has happened so far.

“We are left without choice but to dissolve the Authority in terms of the law. It is not that we don’t like what the Authority is doing, which is leading the implementation of reforming the laws, but we are following the law,” he said.

The matter has been penned to reconvene on May 23, 2022 for mention.

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