…open Parliament by 26 September or face mass action
A group of 73 Members of Parliament (MPs) have given Prime Minister Thomas Thabane an ultimatum to either open Parliament by tomorrow, 26 September, or face mass protests.
The MPs are mostly from the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), and have accused the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader of not taking mediation by several stakeholders, among them the Southern African Development Community (SADC), seriously in trying to resolve the country’s political challenges.
Dr Thabane suspended Parliament for nine months on 10 June 2014 to avoid a no-confidence vote and has continually refused to have it reconvened despite committing to do so on at least three occasions before SADC mediators. The premier cites the country’s current insecurity for refusing to open the Parliament, and has vowed not to do so until the country is completely safe. Top among the security threats, the premier says, is Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who remains in office despite being fired as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander by Dr Thabane on 29 August 2014.
“If the Prime Minister continues to refuse to open Parliament, we will return to our voters and he will understand the people are really powerful. They will hold protest marches to demand he opens their Parliament.
“We have also told Cyril Ramaphosa, as the SADC facilitator, that we suggest Parliament should be opened by 26 September 2014, now that the prime minister has already missed the 19 September deadline he had agreed to in Pretoria, early this month,” said the spokesperson of the MPs, Tlohang Sekhamane, soon after meeting with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday this week.
Mr Sekhamane, who is also the Mokhotlong constituency MP for the DC, said the legislators would want to see Mr Ramaphosa facilitate the opening of Parliament as agreed during the 1 September 2014 mediation, and then ensure the political parties agree on a date for an early election, also as recommended by SADC last week.
SADC recommended the only way Lesotho’s political instability could be resolved was by holding a fresh election before the original date of 2017 as the current coalition government of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) had failed to work together due to irreconcilable differences. The three parties formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 election had failed to produce an outright majority winner.
Meanwhile, Mr Sekhamane said after sending Mr Ramaphosa a letter of complaint seeking to be given “a fair hearing” during the mediation, the MPs finally met the SA Deputy President on Tuesday this week.
“It was in this meeting that we told Mr Ramaphosa of the need to reopen Parliament by 26 September.
“We submitted to Ntate Ramaphosa that he had been given terms of reference to work with in ensuring the restoration of political and security stability in our country but the problem he is faced with is that the coalition government, he is supposed to be dealing with in finding a solution to the impasse, has collapsed.
“It is not only Parliament that has not been meeting since Thabane prorogued Parliament on 10 June; the Executive has also not had cabinet meetings for more than a month now. Even the coalition parties’ Parliamentary caucus has not been meeting for a very long time, as we speak.
“So what we have today, we emphasised to Ntate Ramaphosa, is not government as we know it; we told him it is currently difficult to classify it. However, we made him aware that if Parliament was to be opened urgently, it would deal with all these problems,” Mr Sekhamane said.
“If Thabane fails to open Parliament as we are demanding now, he would have to deal with the people directly.
“I was voted into Parliament by the people of Mokhotlong and I represent them in the National Assembly. All these other MPs also want to see Parliament opened without further delay.
“So if Ntate Thabane does not listen to these demands, he would be forcing us to go back to the electorate and they would be the ones to show him the powers vested in the people. The people would take him to task for failure to open their Parliament.”
Mr Sekhamane further said the MPs had informed Mr Ramaphosa that the prime minister had options to dissolve Parliament after opening it tomorrow, and then either call for an election or resign.
“We also made it clear to the deputy president that there are no security problems that Parliament could not handle, which is why we have always advocated for the House to be reopened.
“We also showed him that his terms of reference would be easily implemented when the Parliament is opened as everything would then fall into place without any challenges,” he said.
“We emphasised to Ntate Ramaphosa that if he really wants to help Basotho, he should pay more attention to those who constitute the majority and this majority can only be proven in Parliament.
“It is evident that the coalition government parties (LCD, ABC and BNP) are divided and we, as MPs, should be given a chance to test who really constitutes the majority. But that can only be done when Parliament is opened,” Sekhamane said.
However, with the MPs making it clear they would pass a vote-of-no-confidence in his premiership, Dr Thabane looks unlikely to be swayed by the MPs demands to open the House by tomorrow, and would wait for Mr Ramaphosa to facilitate an early election before 2017, as recommended by SADC.