Lesotho: Opposition Vows to Challenge Speaker

3 December 2019

Opposition leaders say they will today challenge Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane's decision to discard the motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

The no confidence motion was originally filed in June 2019 by Motebang Koma, the ABC's Koro-Koro constituency legislator and it was seconded by opposition Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa.

Mr Koma proposed that the ABC's Mosalemane constituency legislator, Samuel Rapapa, takes over as caretaker prime minister and effectively warm the seat for Prof Mahao. Prof Mahao is not a legislator and could therefore not be nominated to replace Dr Thabane despite his election as the latter's deputy at the party's contentious February 2019 elective conference.

After protracted delays, Mr Motanyane last week threw out the no confidence motion saying it had no basis in law and parliamentary practice.

And yesterday leader of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Selibe Mochoboroane, said they were ready to challenge the Speaker's ruling in parliament today.

"We are going to challenge the Speaker's ruling because he has chosen to misdirect himself despite the Attorney General's (Advocate Haae Phoofolo) legal opinion, which he has even decided to keep to himself instead of reading to the House," Mr Mochoboroane said.

"Despite the legal opinion being in the public domain, he has made it his property and we are going to challenge his decision. According to Section 83 (5) the Attorney General, a legislator may move such a motion and it is in this vein that we are going to challenge him on Thursday (today)."

He said they would first explore a solution in parliament before approaching the courts.

"The courts will be our last resort when all has failed."

National Independent Party (NIP) leader Kimetso Mathaba shared the same sentiments saying they would not stand back and watch the motion of no confidence being thrown out.

"We are going to do all we can to challenge the Speaker's decision on the no confidence motion. We are not going to just stand back and watch the Speaker when he decides to misdirect himself," Mr Mathaba said.

Mr Mathaba, however, said preference should be given to the constitutional amendment to strip the prime minister of his arbitrary powers to dissolve parliament each time the premier feels his power is threatened.

The amendment was proposed by Popular Front for Democracy leader Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing last month.

After the motion was moved in parliament last month, the second plenary of the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue Programme yesterday endorsed the amendment which will be further deliberated on once the National Reforms Authority (NRA) is in place. The NRA is expected to be established on 6 December 2019.

The National Reforms Authority will have a secretariat headed by a chief executive officer (CEO). The CEO will also be the chief accounting officer responsible for day to day administration of the authority.

The authority will operate independently of any person or authority to ensure transparency, rule of law and involvement of the entire nation in the reforms process.

It is envisaged that the Authority's tenure will be for a year and during that time its secretariat will prepare quarterly progress reports and ultimately a final report for submission to the government, the official leader of the opposition in parliament and the SADC facilitator (South African President Cyril Ramaphosa).

And Mr Mathaba said they would rather prioritise the processes leading to the amendment before pushing for the motion of no confidence against Dr Thabane.

"We are however, of the feeling that preference should be given to the amendment as it will help us avoid taking the costly route of calling fresh elections. On the other hand, the Attorney General's legal opinion has been issued but he has just chosen to ignore it and we are forced to challenge that decision. If he (Mr Motanyane) refuses to listen, we shall resort to the courts and ultimately take the painful route of going to the polls," Mr Mathaba said.

Adv Rakuoane said Mr Motanyane's actions were illegal. He said they would deliberate as the opposition collective to come up with a solid plan.

"We will come up with a plan once we sit and deliberate. Maybe, if challenging the Speaker fails, we might just wait for the budget presentation next year to push the motion," Adv Rakuoane said.

The spokesman for Prof Mahao's faction of the ABC, Montoeli Masoetsa, said the no confidence motion was not a priority.

"The no confidence motion is not a priority as we speak. We want to see the amendment of the constitution given first preference.

"We do agree with the DC that the courts of law shall be approached in the end should all other alternatives fail but not now, we will focus on changing the constitution to strip the PM of arbitrary powers," Mr Masoetsa said.

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