All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislators have given Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili an ultimatum to either open parliament on 4 May or face mass action.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) told a press briefing in Maseru on Monday this week that they would not budge on their demands as the continued closure of the legislature amounted to abuse of power and also denied the public their right to participate in governance through the august house.
Dr Mosisili formed a seven-party coalition government following the 28 February 2015 snap elections which produced a hung parliament. However, despite MPs and cabinet being sworn-in last month, the 9th Parliament remains adjourned, infuriating the MPs from the country’s main opposition party who argue democracy has been comprised since the polls. The previous tripartite government, which came to power in June 2012, failed to last its five-year term due to a vicious power-struggle between ABC leader and Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane and Deputy Prime Minister and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing. That government also included the Basotho National Party.
However, the eleven ABC MPs told Monday’s media briefing the new government comprising Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC), LCD, Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and National Independent Party (NIP), was failing the nation by not opening the National Assembly.
The MPs also demanded when it opens next week, the House should not be closed for its traditional winter break as there were “pertinent issues that need urgent attention”.
The legislators also want Dr Mosisili to ensure “everyone suspected of committing crime is not part of government” and that such individuals are brought before the courts of law “for the sake of peace, stability and the rule of law in Lesotho”.
“If these demands, which include the opening of the 9th Parliament of Lesotho and prosecuting suspected criminals are not fulfilled by 4 May 2015 deadline, we will take the following steps to put pressure on government:
- Lobby different sections of society and the business community to organise stayaways until our demands have been fulfilled.
- Call for Lesotho’s development partners and embassies to withhold all aid as sanctions to put pressure on Mosisili’s government to accede to our demands.
- Approach SADC (Southern African Development Community), AU (African Union), United Nations (UN), and Commonwealth to put pressure on government to adhere to the rule of law and observe democratic principles,” said Koro-Koro MP, Motebang Koma.
On his part, Maseru Constituency legislator, Lesego Makgothi, said following the 10 March swearing-in ceremony of MPs at a special meeting of the National Assembly, the expectation had been that the House would “soon” open.
“However, we have a government that continues to act as if it’s business as usual despite the fact that there has not been any Speech from the Throne by His Majesty, which outlines what this regime’s policies are.
“What is shocking is that these very same people who are failing to open parliament were making so much noise that our leader Ntate Thabane, who was then the Prime Minister, had indefinitely suspended parliament in June last. So what is stopping Ntate Mosisili from opening parliament now?
“Which laws support this continued closure of the House? Our leader had used his constitutional powers on prorogation, so what law is Ntate Mosisili using to keep it shut?” asked Mr Makgothi.
Mr Makgothi said apart from the prolonged closure of parliament, it was still not clear what the new government’s policies were.
He continued: “Another major task of parliament is to allocate the national budget to government ministries. However, the financial year has ended but there is no budget yet, which means government ministries are not functioning properly.
“This lack of budget has adversely affected the ministries to the extent that civil servants are not being paid on time.
“Until when should we continue to be onlookers when the situation is not getting any better?”
Mr Makgothi also expressed “shock” that Dr Mosisili had allowed individuals facing criminal charges before the courts, to be appointed MPs and ministers.
“Among those suspected of committing crimes is the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing and Energy Minister Selibe Mochoboroane. The charges against them include corruption and disrespecting King Letsie III.
“We are also shocked to see that the government is ignoring an attempted coup case against Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. The government is also not pursuing a case in which eight members of the Lesotho Defence Force are suspected of being involved in the bombings of three Maseru homes on 27 January 2014. The same government is also silent on the shooting of two young Basotho near the home of Lt Gen Kamoli last year.
“We are shocked that in their statements, both Ntate Mosisili and the Minister of Defence and National Security, Tšeliso Mokhosi, are considering reinstating Lt Gen Kamoli amid his legal removal from office by Dr Thabane in August last year. We, as ABC MPs, consider the reinstatement of Lt Gen Kamoli to be disrespectful to the nation and complete disregard of the rule of law,” said Mr Makgothi.
Qeme constituency MP, Nkaku Kabi, also spoke about Lt Gen Kamoli’s announced reinstatement, calling it “absurd and shocking”.
“As far as we are aware, the LDF commander is Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and we view his removal as politically-motivated ,” said Mr Kabi.
“We advise Ntate Mosisili to reinstate Lt Gen Mahao as LDF commander with immediate effect. Again, this coalition government should explain why Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana is not at work but on leave. These decisions seem to be nothing but persecution of these two officials, with the aim of achieving certain political objectives,” said Mr Kabi.