DEPUTY Prime Minister (DPM) Mothetjoa Metsing is hoping next Monday’s “peaceful march” against the current prorogation of parliament would “finally drive the message home”.
Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is set to lead the march to urge Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to lift the nine-month prorogation he requested King Letsie III to effect on 10 June 2014.
The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) and Basotho Congress Party (BCP) will also be part of the protest, which is expected to culminate in the handover of a petition to the premier regarding the need to re-open the august house, as a matter of urgency.
Addressing a media conference at the LCD headquarters in Maseru on Tuesday this week, Mr Metsing urged Basotho to “join the march in your numbers” for the premier to see why the prorogation should be lifted.
“If you join us and support this march in your numbers, I’m sure when the PM sees that many Basotho are against the prorogation, it will become relatively easy for him to lift it,” Mr Metsing said.
“I therefore, urge all Basotho who are staunch supporters of democracy, to stand up and protect their rights. A clarion call has been made; come one, come all and maintain peace as you embark on this journey.”
Mr Metsing is DPM in Dr Thabane’s coalition government, comprising the LCD, the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP). The three parties decided to form a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 general election had resulted in a hung parliament.
However, stark differences between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing regarding administrative issues and complaints of non-consultation have emerged in recent months, with the LCD briefly entering into an agreement to form a coalition government with the DC.
This development led to the intervention of Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, resulting in the 30 July 2014 signing of the Windhoek Declaration by the two leaders, in which Dr Thabane committed to lifting the prorogation, and Mr Metsing “divorced” the DC by 14 August.
However, only Mr Metsing honoured the commitment, while it is still not clear when the premier intends to lift the prorogation.
According to Mr Metsing, when Dr Thabane failed to take steps to ensure parliament’s prorogation was lifted by the agreed date, as per the Windhoek Declaration, “I took it that this was because His Majesty King Letsie III was out of the country, and was expected to return to Lesotho on the evening of 14 August.”
The LCD leader also sought to remind the public that when the Windhoek Declaration was signed, the premier had committed to advising King Letsie III, to “prepare a document or instruments removing the prorogation on or before 14 August 2014”.
“In the same breath, I undertook to pull the LCD out of an agreement to form a coalition government with the DC,” Mr Metsing said.
“But up to today, 26 August, the PM has now delayed by about 14 days to live up to the commitment he made.”
According to Mr Metsing, in as much as the prorogation was constitutional, it was also not a good law “because someone is now hiding behind this bad law just because it’s there”.
“We cannot hide behind laws and justify this prorogation just because there’s a law supporting it,” Mr Metsing said.
“If a law is horrid, it remains so. If there’s a law authorising one to prorogue parliament for nine months, then that law is horrible.”
The LCD leader added: “If we are peace-loving people who also uphold principles of democracy, then we cannot hide behind such laws.”
Mr Metsing added Dr Thabane was “my witness” that the current prorogation of parliament is not only a problem for Lesotho but also the whole Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
“One will recall that SADC’s main commitment is to uphold principles of democracy and ensure that countries are governed democratically,” Mr Metsing said.
“The belief by many is that where parliament is prorogued, democracy is paralysed.”
Asked if the march was not an attempt to escape the pending talks by government leaders aimed at formulating a roadmap on what needs to be done in parliament once the prorogation ended, Mr Metsing said: “There will be no more talks beyond those that led to the Windhoek Declaration.
“As far as I know, up to this point, the LCD has never resisted talks. We had talks which culminated in the Windhoek Declaration, therefore it would be unfortunate to suggest we don’t want talks.
“This is not about talks. We signed an agreement that needs to be honoured to the letter and that is our main grievance as the LCD.”
At the weekend, the ABC secretary-general, Samonyane Ntsekele, told the Lesotho Times’ sister-publication, the Sunday Express that the LCD was embarking on the protest “because they are avoiding talks with other coalition partners”, regarding the aforementioned roadmap.
However, Mr Metsing dismissed Mr Ntsekele’s assertion as baseless.
“Ntate Ntsekele is entitled to his own opinion, just like everybody else. What is it that he says we’re hiding from? We made an agreement and met our end of the bargain as the LCD,” Mr Metsing said.
The LCD leader also suggested that Mr Ntsekele’s views sounded like those of a person “filled with fear”.
“When people have fear, they tend to be dangerous. That’s why a fearful person will go as far as killing his enemy for fear that he or she will retaliate badly should they survive the attack,” Mr Metsing said.
“This is where the problem lies; it is fear.”