MASERU — Tempers flared and opposition MPs walked out of parliament yesterday as Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili garnered a simple majority to win a “confidence vote”.
The vote was a dramatic finale to a week that saw Mosisili dumping the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party to form the Democratic Congress (DC) and then toppled the government in a palace coup.
The drama that began on Monday when the DC was registered with the Law Office reached a climax on Tuesday when 44 LCD MPs crossed from the LCD with Mosisili.
Desserted by its leader and the majority of constituency MPs, the LCD moved from being the government to become one of the 24 opposition parties in Lesotho.
The DC, the newest party, became the government in a move reminiscent of the 1997 spectacle when Ntsu Mokhehle left the then ruling Basutoland Congress Party to form the LCD.
The DC will be the governing party until the election scheduled in May.
Mosisili has already predicted that the DC will be the next government of Lesotho after winning the upcoming election “fair and square”.
With his new party formed, the floor crossed and a government toppled, Mosisili entered parliament yesterday afternoon with plans to shore up and show off his support with a “confidence vote” that one opposition MPs described as “unnecessary”.
Mosisili won the vote by a simple majority of 63 votes out of the 119 seats.
But that was not before a major row erupted with opposition MPs who now include those from the LCD accused the Parliament Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai of bias.
Opposition MPs were angered by the fact that Motsamai ignored them when they tried raising points of order.
The opposition MPs wanted to tell Motsamai that the “confidence vote” that had been moved by former trade minister Popane Lebesa was not provided for in the National Assembly Standing Orders.
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Section 111 of the Standing Orders only addresses a motion of no-confidence stating “that this honourable house has no confidence in the government of Lesotho”.
They alleged that Motsamai had not given them a chance to comment on the motion.
Instead, they charged, the speaker was giving ample time to DC MPs to sing praises for Mosisili.
They added that she seemed to be in a hurry to put “such a huge motion” to vote without a thorough debate.
After much bickering, the MPs started streaming out of the august House.
First to leave was LCD chief whip Thabang Pheko who was followed by the LCD secretary general Mothetjoa Metsing.
The LCD’s deputy secretary general Lebohang Nts’inyi and national executive member Keketso Rants’o soon followed.
They were followed by the Lesotho Workers Party’s Sello Maphalla, Basotho Congress Party leader Thulo Mahlakeng and Senkatana’s Lehlohonolo Ts’ehlana.
After that other MPs made a beeline for the exit leaving DC MPs and a handful from National Independent Party to pass the motion.
Curiously they got a helping hand from LWP’s MP Sello Machakela who supported the motion. Machakela is the deputy chairman of the All Basotho Convention but he got into parliament courtesy of the party’s alliance with the LWP in 2007.
He has however fallen out with the ABC after the party suspended a primary election he had planned to contest.
A legal battle is now looming after Machakela dragged the party to the High Court.
Members of the NIP who voted with the DC on the motion included Letuka Nkole, Kimetso Mathaba, Serame Khampepe, Thapelo Mokone, Tahleho Mabetha and Mamotonosi Mofolo.
Pheko who is also the LCD chairman later told the Lesotho Times last night that “it was unprofessional of Motsamai to show bias in her choice of members to comment on the motion”.
“The motion was very important and was supposed to be debated in such a way that all MPs, regardless of party line, would be given the opportunity to comment on it,” said a disappointed Pheko.
“We should have been given the chance to comment either in favour of or against the motion. But only the DC was allowed to participate in the motion.”
Pheko also accused Motsamai of ignoring him on several occasions when he tried to raise a point of order that she was not following procedure by “prematurely pushing for a vote on the motion”.
“When she ignored me and went on to ask those in favour of the motion to vote, I realised there and then that she had other ideas which did not include us,” Pheko said.
When Motsamai decided that it was time to vote on the motion without allowing the opposition to vote on it, it became apparent to the opposition that she had stripped us of our right to participate in it, he added.
“I ended up telling the House that I would rather walk out than tolerate the manner in which we were being treated.
“She treated us with total disregard, forgetting that as MPs we’re in parliament to represent our constituencies and report back to our people about what happens in there.”
“I have lost confidence in the speaker (Motsamai). Her attitude in the House this week has erased all the good she has ever done and tainted her dignity.”
ABC MP Lehlohonolo Mafaesa told this paper that he also walked out of parliament because the execution of the motion was discriminatory.
Maphalla lamented that Motsamai did not want to give him a chance to bring to attention the fact that the proposed motion was not provided for in the National Assembly standing orders.
“Even Lesotho’s constitution does not provide for a vote of confidence motion because it does not exist. The motion was just a waste of time,” Maphalla said.
“DC’s government in my opinion is made up of 45 MPs, Mosisili and Madam Speaker included. The 63 votes don’t exist to me.”
The LWP deputy leader added that Motsamai should not have discriminated against the opposition MPs because “the motion was ours”.
“We were all supposed to have participated in it. But she ignored us because she was protecting her side (DC). She messed up big,” Maphalla said.
“I don’t trust her. I never want to see a person of her kind in front of me ever again.”