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DC threatens to scuttle budget vote

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

OPPOSITION Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has warned that they will not pass next year’s budget unless the Speaker of Parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, allows them to table and vote on the no confidence motion against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Mokhothu also warned of legal action against Mr Motanyane for throwing out the motion which was filed by Motebang Koma, a legislator from Dr Thabane’s own All Basotho Convention (ABC) and seconded by the DC Deputy Leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa.

Mr Motanyane threw out the no confidence motion on 20 November 2019 on the grounds that it did not have “any basis in both the constitution and in the practice of parliament”.

He said it ought to have been filed by an opposition MP and was also flawed that it proposed an ABC MP as caretaker prime minister instead of an opposition leader.

This is despite that Mr Motinyane sought and obtained a legal opinion from Attorney General Haae Phoofolo who advised that the no confidence motion had been properly filed.  Adv Phoofolo advised that the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) were well within their rights to file the motion as any legislator was entitled to file any motion of their choice without any hindrance. Filing such motions- according to Adv Phoofolo- was the very essence of democracy.

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.

Much to the chagrin of the pro-Mahao legislators and their opposition allies, parliament was then indefinitely adjourned in June, without a vote on the motion. This after Mr Motanyane, ruled that the motion did not meet “procedural and constitutional requirements” for it to be accepted. He said the motion ought to have been filed by the opposition and not by Mr Koma, an ABC legislator. He also said the motion was flawed in that it proposed Mr Rapapa as the caretaker prime minister instead of an opposition leader.

“In terms of parliamentary procedure, it is the opposition that files a motion expressing lack of confidence in the government…,” Mr Motanyane said.

Parliament was eventually re-opened in October and on 20 November 2019, Mr Motanyane threw out the no confidence motion on the grounds that it did not have “any basis in both the constitution and in the practice of parliament”.

Early this week, Mr Mokhothu addressed a DC rally in the Lithoteng constituency in Maseru where he vowed that his party will vote against the budget if Mr Motanyane did not allow them to table and vote on the motion to oust Dr Thabane.

“When parliament reopens, we will seek the intervention of the courts of law to reverse the unlawful decisions which were made by the Speaker (Sephiri Motanyane).

“We will demand that the Speaker allows us to table the no confidence motion. If all else fails, we will not allow them to pass the fiscal budget. That will be the last act towards liberating the nation,” Mr Mokhothu said.

He said that 2019 had been a fairly successful year for the DC in terms of recruiting new members and articulating serious national issues including fighting for the rights of wool and mohair farmers as well as pushing the national reforms agenda.

“We have held 100 rallies in all districts. The party has grown significantly as we registered at least 20 000 new memberships since February 2019 which equals the total membership of many parties in Lesotho. This means that in the next three or four years DC will be the biggest party in the country.”

Mr Mokhothu said the party initiated programmes to strengthen the women’s and youth leagues with the introduction of the Miss DC beauty pageant being one of those initiatives.

“A programme to fortify the Women’s League was introduced where the league moved around the country interacting with people in the districts.  The Youth League was given the opportunity to interact with other youth in a language that they understand. The Miss DC initiative was identified as the best way in which there could be direct contact with the youth.

“The purpose of the Miss DC initiative is to instil confidence and the ability to hold meaningful debate by our girls. But the ultimate goal is to educate them on the ways of the congress movement, the ideology and administration of the party, the best communication practices and dispute resolution whenever there are misunderstandings within the party,” Mr Mokhothu said.

He added that the programme was also meant to equip young women with life skills as well as train them to run organisations and start new businesses.

He said the DC had made a huge contribution in furtherance of the processes towards the implementation of the constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms which were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.

He said among other things, they successfully resisted the government’s push to have a non-representative reforms commissions which was only filled with government appointees.

“We resisted that and we settled for the formation of the national leaders’ forum where government has equal representation with the opposition. Our argument was that the government was a player like us and so our participation must be on an equal footing. The reforms are for the Basotho nation not just for the government.

“We also helped the wool and mohair farmers regain their business from government and now they are able to export their produce. However, local independent brokers are still prohibited from buying and exporting the produce. In the coming year, we will fight so that they are at liberty to buy and sell as they wish.”

He said they also successfully lobbied for the unconditional return of exiled political leaders. He however, said that they still needed to fight for the release of members of the security agencies who remained in detention on various criminal charges. Former army commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is among those still in detention. He remains behind bars awaiting trial for murder and attempted murder.

Mr Mokhothu vowed that they would continue to fight for fair trials, justice and the depoliticisation of the security agencies. He also said they would fight to ensure the government fully addressed the teachers’ demands for salary increments and improved working conditions.

“Government has still not addressed the teachers’ grievances and learners were not taught for almost a year. There are still shortages of learning materials and the schools feeding programme is collapsing.

“We will address those issues when we attain power and we will go on to provide free education at secondary level. We will introduce a pension project for factory workers wherein the employer and the employee will contribute so as to give workers severance packages when they retire.

“We are aware of the vast shortage of jobs and the unfair recruitment for the already scarce jobs. We know how corrupt this government is. We also see how they are tarnishing our international relations over the Morocco-Western Sahara saga. They behave this way wherever money is involved because they are greedy. We will cleanse the civil service and rid it of political influence. We will strive for good governance where human rights are guaranteed,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Mr Mokhothu said in the coming year, the DC will conduct political education training for its constituency officers as well as intensify its campaigns to recruit more members ahead of possible elections.

“We will continue to hold political education sessions for constituency officers because that is the only way to grow the party. Without this education, we can grow in numbers but we will not have the leadership skills and our people may end up being swayed by outside forces.

“Next year we will not hold district and constituency rallies. Instead we will hold branch rallies in all the branches in each constituency. Our legislators will go around the country to connect with people in remote areas. They will travel on horseback or skaters (boats) to hold rallies in the branches and take the people’s grievances back to parliament,” Mr Mokhothu said.

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