DEFENCE and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi has dared the opposition alliance to submit a no-confidence motion on the seven-party coalition government, saying they were ready to counter the move.
In a sign National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai may follow through with her mooted expulsion of 13 opposition members of parliament (MPs) for alleged absenteeism, Mr Mokhosi said he was “not expecting” the concerned legislators to participate in the looming no-confidence motion.
Mr Mokhosi, who is also Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, said this while addressing scores of party supporters during a rally held near ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru on Sunday.
The opposition alliance has vowed to submit a no-confidence motion on the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led government once the National Assembly is reconvened on 24 February 2017.
The bloc, which consists of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the recently launched Alliance for Democrats (AD), has also declared they would only approve the national budget if the no-confidence motion is first tabled in the august house.
However, before adjourning parliamentary sittings on 22 November 2016, Ms Motsamai had asked the 13 legislators to “show cause” why they should not be expelled from parliament for alleged absenteeism without her permission.
The 13 MPs include the exiled opposition bloc leaders, former premier Thomas Thabane, Thesele ’Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo of the ABC, BNP and RCL respectively.
The trio sought refuge in South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 respectively, allegedly after being alerted of a plot to kill them by Lesotho Defence Force members — an accusation the army and government have vehemently denied.
Other MPs facing expulsion include the BNP’s deputy leader Joang Molapo and Dr Nthabiseng Makoae and the ABC’s Samonyane Ntsekele, Leshoboro Mohlajoa, Tšoeu Molise, Majoro Mohapi, Chalane Phori, Mokherane Tsatsanyane, Motlohi Maliehe and Prince Maliehe.
The opposition MPs started boycotting the august house on 23 June 2015 when it adjourned, protesting alleged lack of law and order which had resulted in their three leaders seeking refuge in South Africa the previous month.
While most of the MPs have since returned to the National Assembly, some have intermittently fled the country citing threats to their lives and quietly returned over the course of 2016.
Ms Motsamai has since made an undertaking before the High Court to suspend acting on the “show cause letters” until a ruling is made on the MPs’ challenge.
However, Mr Mokhosi said the opposition should not expect the no-confidence motion to sail through since he expected some of their MPs to have been expelled by the time parliament reopens.
“We are not expecting those who bunked parliament to have any say in the no-confidence vote like they are threatening because they are no longer MPs,” he said, adding it was the opposition’s democratic right to test the government’s numerical supremacy in parliament.
Mr Mokhosi also reiterated Dr Mosisili’s warning to MPs seeking his ouster that the government would not write off their interest-free loans in the event of a no-confidence motion as was the case with the Eighth Parliament.
The legislators qualified for M500 000 interest-free loans from a local bank as part of their benefits, and are supposed to repay the money over five years. The government underwrote the loans and also paid interest on behalf of the MPs.
Mr Mokhosi said in the Eighth Parliament the write off was made because the decision to dissolve parliament was not made by the MPs after the collapse of the Dr Thabane-led coalition government.
“In Lesotho, being an MP is a form of employment. All of the legislators have acquired M500 000 loans. How are they going to pay back those monies if they are unemployed? This also means that they will have to forfeit their gratuities as they as they would be ineligible to get them in May.”
The LCD deputy leader asserted that his party was unfazed by the no-confidence motion, which if passed would likely lead to elections, saying it would enable them to get a new mandate from Basotho.
“If the no-confidence motion were to be passed, it would be an honour on the LCD’s part to get a new mandate from the people.”
He also accused Dr Thabane of running the ABC like a “family business” and abusing his incumbency in the 2015 elections to prop up his campaign.
“The ABC is a family-run party and he (Dr Thabane) chooses the party members he likes and discards those he doesn’t want? The situation in the ABC is a real tragedy,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“In the event that elections are held, the ABC will not have the advantage of incumbency – so it will be a different ball game. They will be campaigning as the opposition and we are ready for them and very determined.”
Mr Mokhosi also accused the opposition of being bankrolled by “whites” who he said wanted to exploit Lesotho’s natural resources.
“Basotho are under attack since their compatriots have sought the assistance of whites and crooks in their efforts to take power. These white people have exhausted their countries’ resources and are now eyeing Africa, with Lesotho also in their sights. Basotho will never have stability because of these whites and our brothers who are conniving with them,” he said.
AD leader Monyane Moleleki responded to Mr Mokhosi’s remarks with a question saying: “When these so-called whites are asked to save AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) who benefits? Is that what he refers to as eyeing our resources? It’s ridiculous!”
AGOA accords duty-free treatment to products exported by beneficiary sub-Saharan countries to the United States including Lesotho.
For his part, ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela said he would “strongly advise” Mr Mokhosi to consign his efforts to “resuscitating” the LCD.
“The ABC is not a family party and those remarks are unfounded and he cannot even justify them,” said Mr Mapesela.
“I would strongly advise him to at least try to find means of resuscitating his dead party. The LCD is dead. In any case, he will not be in a position to decide what will happen to the MPs’ loans because he will no longer be a part of government soon.”