Motsamai speaks on no-confidence motion
. . . as opposition bids to boot out govt
A NO-CONFIDENCE motion on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government will not be tabled on Friday as the opposition has demanded, with National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai yet to submit it to the parliamentary Business Committee which chooses the issues to be debated.
National Assembly Clerk, King’s Counsel (KC) Advocate Fine Maema yesterday confirmed to the Lesotho Times the opposition bloc’s submission of a notice of motion for a no-confidence vote.
However, Adv KC Maema would not be drawn to elaborate on when Ms Motsamai would submit the notice of motion to the Business Committee.
“The Speaker shall peruse the contents therein and, as provided for in the Standing Orders, she will then refer the motion to the relevant committee, and that is the Business Committee,” said Adv KC Maema.
He said there would not be any “unusual agenda” during the reconvening of the National Assembly tomorrow.
The expected business of the house, Adv KC Maema said, would include Ms Motsamai’s welcome address followed by announcements from political parties on their new configurations.
This was after the four-party opposition alliance called on Ms Motsamai to be a “neutral umpire” as they bid to unseat Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Made up of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho, the opposition bloc has also urged the Council of State to advise King Letsie III against dissolving parliament in the event the mooted no-confidence motion succeeds and Dr Mosisili calls for snap elections.
The parties have also called on Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also National Assembly leader of the house, to send the no-confidence motion to the Business Committee today, to ensure it would be tabled tomorrow when parliament reconvenes.
The opposition is intent on following through with a mooted no-confidence motion on the seven-party governing alliance. Claiming the support of 74 MPs in the 120-member National Assembly, the opposition bloc is confident it can bring to an abrupt end Dr Mosisili’s almost two-year old administration. Sixty-one seats are required to form government.
However, the opposition alliance faces formidable hurdles in their path to power, with National Assembly speaker Ms Motsamai holding sway on the business that can and cannot be discussed in parliament.
Ms Motsamai, who is also the Hloahloeng constituency legislator for the Dr Mosisili-led Democratic Congress (DC), scuttled the opposition’s move to test their numerical supremacy last November by submitting a no-confidence motion on her deputy, Montšuoe Lethoba.
The motion did not see the light of day after Ms Motsamai indefinitely adjourned the National Assembly on 22 November 2016 saying the House had “run out of time”, much to the opposition’s chagrin.
Ten opposition MPs then lodged an urgent application before the High Court in December 2016 seeking an order to compel Ms Motsamai to reconvene the August House. However, the legislators last month withdrew their application, saying it had been rendered academic since the judges presiding over it had not deemed it as urgent.
Given that the opposition’s mooted no-confidence vote is meant to result in a change of government without the holding of fresh elections, the bloc’s other obstacle is Dr Mosisili’s vow to dissolve parliament and advise King Letsie III to call for elections if he is ousted from the premiership in the National Assembly.
The third obstacle for the opposition is Leader of the House Mr Metsing, who is responsible for the management of government business in the National Assembly. It is within Mr Metsing’s powers to add the opposition’s motion in the Business Committee — which is responsible for determining the issues before the House.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday to announce AD leader Monyane Moleleki as their proposed replacement for Dr Mosisili if the no-confidence motion succeeds, the opposition bloc said they constituted the majority in parliament, hence the need for regime change.
BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane said Ms Motsamai should “do the right thing” by acknowledging the opposition’s numerical supremacy in parliament and notifying King Letsie III of the development to facilitate a change of government.
“Being a government is determined by numbers of seats in our political system. The National Assembly speaker is obliged to inform the King about the changes in the numbers,” he said.
“Now that we have 74 seats in the house, it means we should, by law, come into office. What’s only left are for those technicalities to be fulfilled.
“It is in the country’s best interests if the speaker were to do the right thing and facilitate a smooth transition by allowing the no-confidence vote to proceed since it is a right for MPs.”
Mr Moleleki chipped in saying the prime minister in Lesotho was elected by parliament and not directly by the people.
“In our parliamentary democracy, the National Assembly is above the prime minister,” he said.
“Unlike the presidential system in the United States, here we elect MPs who in turn elect the prime minister. However, Ntate Mosisili now holds the view that we elect a prime minister. We don’t do that.”
The veteran politician said Ms Motsamai should not take sides, but follow the dictates of the law.
“The speaker should learn to do the right thing. In fact, she was taught by me and Ntate (ABC leader Thomas) Thabane. I taught her parliamentary procedures when she was elected,” said Mr Moleleki.
“A speaker does not take sides because he or she is supposed to be a neutral umpire.
“It’s unfortunate that in times past she has been biased. She should run the business of parliament in a neutral manner to give parliamentarians faith in her and the people confidence in her as the speaker.”
He added: “If she goes ahead with playing tricks on us, we would consider amending the law with regards to the removal of the speaker from the current requirement of a two thirds majority of parliament to a simple majority during the reforms process.”
Lesotho has undertaken to implement security sector and constitutional reforms among others meant to achieve lasting peace and stability with the assistance of the Southern African Development Community.
The AD leader also appealed to members of the Council of State to prevent “subjecting the country to the heavy cost” of elections “just because of Prime Minister Mosisili’s ego”.
The Council of State plays a role in advising the King on key constitutional functions including calling for elections. It consists of Dr Mosisili, Ms Motsamai, two judges (or former judges) of the High Court or Court of Appeal, the army commander, police commissioner, attorney-general, nominees of the prime minister, opposition MPs, and members of the legal profession among others.
“The Council of State should advise the King against the dissolution of parliament and have Ntate (Mosisili) hand over power peacefully with immediate effect,” said Mr Moleleki.
He also urged Mr Metsing to ensure that the no-confidence motion would be the first order of business tomorrow.
“We are also appealing to the leader of the house who is also Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Metsing, to ensure that he includes the motion of no-confidence to the Business Committee’s agenda.
“The motion will be submitted to the speaker immediately after this press conference so that the motion is hopefully disposed of before any other business.
“A no-confidence motion should be the first business to be transacted in parliament because any other business would not succeed if the government does not have the requisite numbers.”
He said the opposition’s bid to unseat the government in parliament had a precedent in the 1997 ousting of the Basotho Congress Party by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
“In 1997, we were ruled by one political party, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) (later renamed Basotho Congress Party). The prime minister at the time, Dr Ntsu Mokhehle and others, like Ntate Mosisili and me formed a new political party in parliament called the Lesotho Congress for Democracy,” he said.
“After the formation of the LCD, there was a smooth change of government in the National Assembly.
“Of course our erstwhile colleagues in the BCP felt left behind in the cold and were aggrieved saying that we had hijacked their BCP government.”
Mr Moleleki added: “The BCP members’ anger nearly caused chaos and political disturbances. But their cries stopped after political experts counselled that our action was within the confines of the law.”
For his part, Mr Metsing’s Private Secretary Lesolle Phalatse dismissed the opposition bloc’s appeal as a “publicity stunt”, saying parliamentary business could not be undertaken in a press conference.
“Procedurally and traditionally, a press conference is not a forum for parliamentary business. So what they did was just a publicity stunt,” he said.