MASERU — Lesotho Congress for Democrcy (LCD) secretary general Mothetjoa Metsing yesterday accused Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai of violating parliamentary procedures when she stopped MPs from crossing the floor to the newly formed Democratic Congress (DC) party.
Motsamai infuriated Metsing and other opposition leaders when she ruled that the MPs who were backing the Democratic Congress should not cross the floor as they were the majority.
Instead she ordered the MPs who supported the new party led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to stand up so that they could be physically counted and then announced that they were the majority.
Motsamai’s decision to break with tradition angered Metsing and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane.
Motsamai also did not cite any section of the constitution or the Parliamentary Standing Orders that allow MPs who join another party in parliament not to cross the floor.
She only referred to a section in the constitution that dealt with vacancies for the Prime Minister and government ministers, issues that were not related to the MPs case.
According to parliament’s Standing Orders, any MP who joins another party officially notifies the speaker and crosses the floor.
What happened yesterday was however a case of history repeating itself.
In 1997, then Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) leader Ntsu Mokhehle broke away to form the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
The then parliamentary speaker, Teboho Kolane, ordered the BCP MPs to cross the floor instead of the newly formed LCD MPs without citing any section of parliament’s Standing Orders or the constitution.
Mokhehle and Kolane argued that there was no constitutional provision that expressly prevented them from doing what they did.
Mokhehle’s LCD enjoyed majority support of 40 members in parliament against 22 supporters of the remaining BCP faction, something which essentially allowed him to turn his party into the ruling party.
In a similar vein the DC has the backing of 45 MPs while the LCD has remained with 20.
The opposition ABC and the Lesotho People’s Congress have a combined total of 15 MPs who are eligible to cross the floor because they represent constituencies.
The other 40 MPs cannot cross the floor because they entered parliament through the proportional representation system.
Metsing said Motsamai’s decision not to allow the MPs to cross the floor was a violation of parliamentary procedures.
“Madam Speaker, with respect, I humbly make you aware that what you are doing is not provided for in parliamentary procedures,” Metsing said.
“You are being biased because you were part of the people who went to ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre to form this new party over the weekend.”
He added: “Your car was photographed ferrying the people there. You are deliberately failing the procedure.”
Thabane also lashed out at Motsamai saying he no longer had any confidence in the speaker.
“You are making us your small children, Madam Speaker. We know the procedures as well as you know,” Thabane said.
“The Sesotho word tšela means to cross in English and we are expecting members of this new party to cross the floor as per the parliamentary procedures, which you know well.”
He added: “Show us a section that allows you to do what you are doing.”
Other MPs from the opposition and the LCD cheered Metsing and Thabane as they challenged the speaker.
Motsamai however did not address questions of law that allowed her to count the MPs who were backing the new party.
“I am going to have the honourable members who support the Democratic Congress counted and then you will know my next step,” Motsamai said.
After counting them, she announced the numbers and then adjourned parliament amid objections from the opposition and the LCD.
There could be more drama in parliament today when DC MPs seek to pass a motion of confidence in Mosisili.
The LCD internal wrangling that saw the formation of the DC at the weekend followed the same pattern that happened in 1997 when Mokhehle ditched the BCP to form the LCD.
For the past two years the LCD national executive which is pro-Metsing fought a bruising battle with Mosisili who is said to have a soft spot for a faction headed by Monyane Moleleki.
Moleleki is the deputy leader of the DC and is strongly tipped to take over the leadership of the new party when Mosisili steps down.