'Frustrated' Lesotho opposition labels govt 'cowards'

2016-11-24 09:30
Outgoing Lesotho prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili. (AFP, File picture)

Outgoing Lesotho prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili. (AFP, File picture)

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Maseru - Lesotho opposition members of parliament have called the government cowards, after the Speaker of the National Assembly adjourned the house for Christmas without debate.

The “no vote” recess was a blow to the opposition, which had hoped to show that it had enough numbers to form an alternative government and unseat the current coalition.

Usually a motion for recess is filed by the Leader of the House and current Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing - as it appears on the Order Paper. It is then tabled by for debate, before it is passed.

This time around, the motion appeared on the Order Paper, but during proceedings the Speaker announced unscheduled statements by the Ministers of Mining and Agriculture, which were followed by questions, stretching the time of the sitting.

After a marathon four-hour sitting, at 18:30 on Tuesday,  the Speaker announced that time had run out, and pursuant to Standing Order 18 (4) the house would adjourn sine die.

'We didn’t see it coming'

In part the Standing Order reads “... If the motion (to adjourn) has not been moved or having been moved has not been agreed to by that hour or, if no such hour has been determined, by 18:30, the Speaker shall then adjourn the House without question put sine die.”

As she walked out, Deputy Leader of the Basotho National Party, Joang Molapo, shouted in frustration that what the Speaker had done was against the laws of the country.

‘Mamandla ‘Musa of the ABC admited the Speaker caught them by surprise.

“We didn’t see it coming. It was totally unexpected the way she handled it,” She said.

The DC’s Ret’selisitsoe Masenyenetse concurred, adding:  “We have to bolster our strategy, go to constituencies and sell the idea of a grand coalition of government unity, Lesotho needs it.”

But some MPs said they were seeking legal counsel and that they wanted to challenge the Speaker’s action in court. 

The DC battles and the vote...

The Deputy leader of the Prime Minister’s party - Democratic Congress - Monyane Moleleki, and 10 out of the 16 members of the NEC announced they had decided on November 10 to withdraw from the governing coalition, and to invite other parties, including the opposition All Basotho Convention of exiled former prime minister Tom Thabane to a grand coalition of national unity.

Immediately following that announcement Moleleki, Secretary General Ralechate ‘Mokose, two other ministers and a deputy resigned and moved to the “cross” benches in parliament.

The Speaker, Nthloi Motsamai, later ruled that their move was “of no consequence”.

Now the leader and Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili has called a special conference to discipline the Moleleki side of the NEC for holding meetings and making decisions without him. 

The Moleleki side announced recently that after reaching a majority decision of the NEC the Leader and Prime Minister did not follow orders, and it was suspending him, pending a disciplinary hearing, but he too remained defiant, saying the NEC had no powers to suspend him.

The DC battles could mean the current coalition has lost legitimacy.  In a 120 seat National Assembly, any government needs 50% plus 1, or 61 seats. 

The current coalition of seven parties was formed with 65 seats, and the withdrawal of at the 5 members of the Moleleki faction of the DC could mean it remains a minority, but a vote of any kind, even for a motion to adjourn, is needed to test this.

Read more on:    pakalitha mosisili  |  tom thabane  |  lesotho  |  southern africa

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