Opposition in turmoil

MASERU — Lesotho’s opposition movement has been rocked by divisions over strategies on how to confront the government on the proportional representation (PR) seats issue.

The government has so far refused to budge despite incessant pressure from the opposition to reallocate the PR seats although it has tacitly admitted that the seats allocation was bungled after the 2007 general election.

With the government stonewalling, frustrated senior members of the opposition movement are now at odds over the tactics they must use to force the government to make further concessions.

The opposition movement is split over suggestions by some that parties should pull out their MPs from parliament to ratchet up pressure on the government.

The pro-boycott faction believes the pull-out will force the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government to lose legitimacy.

They argue this could force the government to give in to pressure and redistribute the disputed seats.

Majara Molapo, the spokesperson of the Lesotho Opposition Parties Forum, an umbrella body for opposition parties and a prominent member of the Basotho National Party (BNP), is among the people actively advocating for the opposition pull-out.

Molapo told the Lesotho Times this week that he and other opposition members were frustrated that the opposition MPs had still not pulled out of parliament.

He said the suggestion that the opposition should pull out of parliament in protest was made a few weeks after Sir Ketumile Masire, a Sadc emissary appointed to mediate in the dispute, issued his report in July last year.

There are 58 opposition MPs in parliament but 21 of these belong to the National Independent Party (NIP) which is in an alliance with the LCD.

The NIP is not fighting against the allocation of the PR seats.

Molapo said “after Masire said the seats had not been allocated properly we said let’s pull out of parliament”.

At that meeting, he said, the opposition MPs agreedthat they would pull out.

“They were supposed to pull out but they never did,” Molapo said.

“We genuinely thought that they were going to pull out.

“BNP leader Metsing Lekhanya has always said parliament is illegitimate. All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Thomas Thabane, has said that as well.

“So we thought that they would pull out but they never did.”

Molapo said there was now a feeling amongst the opposition members who favour a boycott that those who are in parliament were refusing to pull out because they wanted to continue benefiting.

“They have remained there because they want to get their terminal benefits. They are there for selfish reasons,” he added.

“How can you say parliament is illegitimate and then you insist on remaining part of it. How can you say some people are crooks and still remain part of them? That means you are a crook as well.”

Majara said the reasons opposition MPs give for remaining in “the illegitimate parliament are vague and unconvincing”.

“They say that if they pull out of parliament the LCD MPs will manipulate the laws for their benefit. But that does not make sense at all because even when they are in parliament Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government has been doing as it pleases.”

“Their presence in there does not make a difference at all,” he said.

The problem with the opposition movement, Majara said, was that people in key positions “are not willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good of this country”.

“It bothers me. It bothers many others that those people still want to remain in an illegitimate institution so that they can get their terminal benefits. Their stay in there is not based on principle but greed.”

“They (opposition MPs) are part of the scam.”

Lekhanya, who is in parliament together with two other members of his party, said although he might want to pull out of parliament BNP members will not allow it.

“It will be good to pull out but it’s not easy,” Lekhanya said.

“It’s by my party’s mandate that I am in parliament. I have to be there whether it’s illegitimate or not.”

He however said he doubted the political logic of pulling out of parliament because “our presence in there doesn’t make much of a difference”.

“We do not have a voice in the first place.”

Sello Maphalla, the deputy leader of the Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP), said he does not recall anyone making suggestions that the opposition MPs should pull out of parliament.

“I don’t know where Molapo is getting that from. I don’t know the meeting he is referring to,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned there was never a discussion on that issue. In any case what kind of a country will it be that does not have the opposition in parliament?”

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