Deputy Speaker says DC government is illegal

MASERU — Deputy Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane says the Democratic Congress (DC) government formed by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on February 28 is unconstitutional.

Motanyane, 74, said the constitution was violated and procedures were flouted when Mosisili dumped the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (DC) to form a new government.

On February 28 Mosisili defected to the DC with 44 LCD MPs in a move that effectively ended the LCD’s 15-year reign as the government.

After the “floor-crossing” Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai announced the DC as the new government amidst howls of protest from opposition and LCD MPs.

But Motanyane, who has been in parliament since 1965, said the DC cannot claim to be a government because it came into power through a flawed process.

Motanyane was speaking to the Lesotho Times last Friday, a day after opposition parties filed a case in the High Court challenging the legality of the DC government.

The opposition parties want the DC government declared illegal.

During the interview Motanyane insisted his views were not based on his political inclinations but on an interpretation of the constitution and parliamentary procedures.

The former Minister in the Prime Minister’s office said as the deputy speaker he is impartial and that he is only speaking about the events of February 28 because he does not want history to judge him “harshly for being silent”.

“The constitution was not obeyed and procedure in parliament was not followed,” he said.

“As things stand now the DC government is not constitutional. It should not be the government.”

“Constitutionally the LCD is still the government of Lesotho.”

Motanyane said the whole process from the “floor-crossing” by MPs to the declaration of the DC as the government was defective.

“There was no physical floor-crossing as stipulated in the regulations. But even if the 45 MPs had physically crossed the floor from the LCD to the DC it was wrong for the Speaker to then declare the DC as the new government because it did not have the majority and she does not have the powers to do so.”

Only the King, Motanyane added, has the power to declare a government formed.

“The constitution is clear that after an election the Speaker informs his Majesty who then, at the advice of the Council of State, appoints as prime minister an MP whose party appears to be in the majority or in an alliance that gives it the majority to form the government,” Motanyane said.

“This is the same procedure the Speaker should have followed when the situation changed in parliament. She should have informed the king of the changes because only he has the appointing powers.”

Motanyane said he is sure that this process was not followed because instead of informing the King the Speaker proceeded to declare the DC as the new government.

“The whole process was illegal. The Speaker should not have declared the DC as the new government. Instead she should have informed the King that there had been floor-crossing in parliament and that the LCD no longer has the majority.”

The King would then have made the declaration but only after receiving advice from the Council of State, he said.

Motanyane however noted that even if the Speaker who is also a member of the Council of State had followed the constitution there was no way the King could have declared the DC as the government because it is not the majority in parliament.

“It’s clear that although the DC has the largest group in parliament it is not the majority. Clearly 45 MPs do not constitute a majority in a parliament that has 120 MPs,” he said.

In that situation, Motanyane explained, the King would have informed the DC to form an alliance with another party so that it has the majority to form a government.

“This did not happen. The DC was declared a government by the Speaker and not the King. The DC still has 45 MPs and that does not make the majority.”

Motanyane believes the Speaker was not impartial during the parliamentary proceedings that led to the formation of the DC government.

He was the one who was supposed to chair the session on February 28 but Motsamai decided she would conduct the proceedings.

This was after she had informed Motanyane that a new party had been formed and she wanted to chair the session on that day.

Motanyane said after Motsamai’s request he suspected that something was wrong.

What followed thereafter was surreal, he said.

“The Speaker read a list on MPs who had crossed to the DC and she even counted herself.

“How she had got the list I don’t know but I suspect the DC had given it to her beforehand or she was part and parcel of the new party,” he said.

He added that even the confidence motion passed on Mosisili on February 29 “was an act of self deceit by the DC”.

Anyone who claims that the vote of confidence passed on February 29 gave the DC the right to be the government is “clearly ignorant of the rules of the parliament”, Motanyane said.

“It was a useless motion because what is clear is that 45 MPs had defected to the DC and that those from other parties who supported the confidence motion were not in a coalition with the DC.”

“The terms of any coalition must be known by everyone. The NIP (National Independent Party) MPs that supported the motion were in the wrong because their party is in a coalition with the LCD and not DC. As things stand now the only coalition that is known is that of the LCD and NIP”.

Motsamai said she could not respond to Motanyane’s allegations “as that would be subjudice”.

She however sought to clarify why she voted.

Ntate Motanyane and I both represent our constituencies in the National Assembly as MPs. By voting I was carrying out the mandate I had from my constituency,” she said.

“The fact that he did not vote with us could mean that he was merely carrying out instructions given him by his constituency.”

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