Daggers drawn

Lesotho Times
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As ABC and BNP fight over opposition leader post

Billy Ntaote


THE Basotho National Party (BNP) wants party leader Thesele ‘Maseribane appointed Leader of the Opposition in the 9th Parliament as a “reward” for standing by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) against the “Congress movement”.

According to BNP sources who spoke to the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity, the party is opposed to outgoing Prime Minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane being given the lucrative position, and had since sought support from the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL)—the only other party with representation in parliament which is not part of the new coalition government to be led by Democratic Congress (DC) leader Pakalitha Mosisili.

The sources gave an example of Dr Mosisili, who qualified for the role whose perks are almost equivalent to those of a cabinet minister, in the last parliament but made way for his deputy, Monyake Moleleki, for the sake of unity in the party.

“Thabane qualifies to be the leader of the opposition in parliament because the ABC has 46 seats, while the BNP has seven and the RCL has two, but what we are saying is we have stood by Dr Thabane in the (outgoing) government and the battle against Congress parties, and need to be rewarded for it through this position.

“By allowing Chief ‘Maseribane to be the Leader of the Opposition, the ABC would have shown its sincerity in our alliance, and hopefully, there won’t be unnecessary bickering over the issue. We have spoken to the RCL membership seeking their support over this issue, and remain confident that this is not going to create friction between us and the ABC, as well as the RCL. We need to remain united in parliament and if we don’t agree on this, it might end up dividing to the detriment of democracy and development in our country,” said one of the sources, who is a high-ranking BNP member.

Contacted on the issue yesterday, Chief ‘Maseribane would neither confirm nor deny the claim, but insisted the BNP was going to continue working with the ABC in parliament “the way we have been doing in the coalition government”.

However, the BNP leader said the two parties were still to formalise their alliance  now that they are in the opposition.

“We will have to come up with an official agreement on how to work together with the ABC and RCL,” said Chief ‘Maseribane.

“However, I have to be clear that some of the issues you are asking me have not yet been agreed upon and whatever is being discussed cannot be revealed to the public at the moment.”

According to Chief ‘Maseribane, the constitutional and institutional reforms Lesotho needed to embark on required a “very strong” Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

“The person who assumes the role would need to lobby government and MPs to ensure the reforms serve the greater interests of Basotho,” said Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also the outgoing Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation minister.

He also declared that the 9th Parliament would have the most active and vibrant opposition in Lesotho’s history.

“We managed to achieve a lot within the two-and-a-half years we were in office as Lesotho’s first coalition government so we expect to see some of the programmes we had initiated being continued by the incoming government for the good of Basotho,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

“We will hold the government to account on the initiatives we had already launched and others that need to be addressed regardless of who would be leading the opposition.”

Chief ‘Maseribane added the incoming government of the Democratic Congress, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), also  needed to address the country’s security challenges “as a matter of urgency”.

“We need to see meaningful reforms in the security sector and, as a powerful opposition, we will take the incoming government to task on this issue,” the BNP leader said.

“We want the current challenges in the army, such as its command, to be addressed without fail.”

Perpetrators of the 30 August 2014 army attack on three major Maseru police stations, which resulted in nine police officers being badly injured and Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko shot dead, should be brought to justice by the incoming government, Chief  ‘Maseribane added.

“We still have the unresolved case of the 30 August raid of police stations and the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko for which the aggressors should be answerable,” said Chief ‘Maseribane.

He also said Lesotho needed to focus on development issues so the Kingdom could emerge from the least-developed country status.

“Basotho’s interests should remain the first and foremost priority in all the issues we deal with,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

“We know that the electorate chose to divide the country into two politically, but we need to foster unity among Basotho.

“As the opposition, we will use our political power in parliament to stop the incoming government from effecting any self-enrichment initiatives.”

On his part, ABC Secretary General Samonyane Ntsekele said the decision on who would take up the Leader of the Opposition post rested with his party’s leadership. According to Mr Ntsekele, the three parties were in unison, although they were yet to work out the modalities of their opposition alliance.

“We are pulling in the same direction as the three-party alliance and will soon work out how we will work together in parliament. With our numbers, we will be able decide on the reforms our country needs to undertake,” said Mr Ntsekele.

“The interesting thing is that the incoming government would require a two-thirds majority to pass constitutional reforms, so our input will matter when it comes to the type of reforms that will be implemented.”

ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu also told the Lesotho Times the three parties were yet to decide on how they would work together in parliament as the opposition.

On her part, RCL leader, Keketso Rantšo, said the ABC called all the shots on who is going to occupy the position due to its superior number of MPs.

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