RCL backs Thabane on parly prorogation

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Mohalenyane Phakela

SOME members of the fractious Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL)’s national executive committee (RCL) have distanced the party from embattled party leader Keketso Rantšo’s affidavit in support of the Constitutional Court application challenging Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s decision to prorogue parliament.

They have instead professed support for Dr Thabane’s move to prorogue parliament from 20 March to 19 June 2020 on the grounds that large gatherings should be banned to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

With its one seat, the RCL is the most junior member of the current four party governing coalition which also includes Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD) and Communications, Science and Technology Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP).

The ABC and BNP joined forces with the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) to challenge the prorogation on the grounds that it was done without the approval of His Majesty King Letsie III and without consulting the coalition partners. Although RCL is not among the applicants, its leader Ms Rantšo submitted an affidavit in support of the application.

Ms Rantšo, who is also the Labour and Employment Minister, said she supported the application to nullify the prorogation because she was not consulted before the decision was made.

“As a minister responsible for labour, it is my responsibility to protect tens of thousands of workers and employers throughout the country,” Ms Rantšo states in her affidavit.

“These (workers and employers) are the people who are likely to be hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Under normal circumstances, the prime minister and deputy prime minister (Monyane Moleleki) would consult and engage my ministry on issues that affect the masses. I confirm that they have never consulted with my ministry when advising for the prorogation of parliament on the basis of the Coronavirus.

“I further wish to state that we it would be unfair to take measures to protect members of parliament leaving multitude of other employees unattended. I fully support the cause and reliefs sought.”

However, Ms Rantšo’s affidavit has been opposed by RCL officials who insist she cannot speak and act on behalf of the party after they “replaced” her as party leader with Home Affairs principal secretary ‘Mamahapela Letsie at a “special conference” in Berea on 29 February 2020.

RCL “secretary general” Retšelisitsoe Lesane this week issued a statement on behalf of the NEC saying they did not support Ms Rantšo’s affidavit.

“The RCL is not part of the matter in court challenging the prorogation of parliament. We are aware that Honourable Rantšo appears to be in support of such a litigation on behalf of the RCL. She did that on her own accord and was not authorised by the leadership of the party.

“Honourable Rantšo is the former leader although she is still representing the RCL in cabinet. However, she does not have powers to make such drastic decisions without the consent of the party.

“The RCL is still part of the four-party government and therefore supports decisions made by the government which are supported by the constitution and other laws of the country. The RCL supports the lawful decision of the prime minister to prorogue parliament,” Mr Lesane said in his 5 April 2020 statement.

The prorogation issue is merely the latest theatre for the claimants to the RCL leadership to do battle.

This after Ms Rantšo was “ousted” at the 29 February 2020 “special conference” and replaced by Ms Lemphane-Letsie.

However, there is a pending High Court application for the nullification of the “special conference” and Ms Rantšo’s “ouster”.

The applicants are Michael Keele, ‘Mamahapela Letsie and Katleho Mohapi. They are secretaries of the RCL’s Hlotse, Matsieng and Mafeteng constituency committees respectively. The matter was scheduled for hearing on 1 April 2020 it was postponed indefinitely on account of the national lockdown declared by Dr Thabane to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

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