‘Until our leaders return from exile and Kamoli steps down as LDF commander, we are not going back to parliament,’ vows BNP Deputy Leader Joang Molapo
Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) say they will not be in the legislature when it reconvenes later this month unless their leaders are back from exile and army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is no longer in office.
National Assembly Speaker, Ms Ntlhoi Motsamai, has announced parliament reopens on 30 October after it adjourned sine die on 1 July this year.
However, the opposition’s 55 MPs had started boycotting the august house on 23 June when it adjourned, protesting alleged lack of law and order which had resulted in their three leaders—former prime minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo—seeking refuge in South Africa the previous month.
The three leaders, and several members of their parties and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), fled to South Africa claiming the military was out to kill or arrest them to settle old scores.
According to BNP Deputy Leader Joang Molapo, the opposition’s stance regarding parliament remains the same—that their MPs would boycott it until stability returns to Lesotho.
In addition to the safe return of their leaders and all the other exiles, the MPs would want LDF members who killed former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, brought to book. Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot on 25 June this year by fellow LDF members who had come to arrest him on suspicion he had planned to lead a mutiny and remove the military command. Lt-Gen Mahao’s alleged co-conspirators are being tried by a Court Martial and are detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison. The Southern African Development Community has since established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding Lt-Gen Mahao’s death and the 10-member probe team is expected to wind up its business at the end of next month.
However, Chief Molapo told the Lesotho Times the opposition would not have anything to do with parliament until their demands are met.
“We have received the letters informing us about the sitting of the parliament, but our position as the opposition, remains the same.
“Until our leaders return from exile and Kamoli steps down as LDF commander, we are not going back to parliament.
“As matters stand, we have no reason to go to parliament. The international community has supported our decision to put pressure on government to be accountable.
“However, Basotho should know we will soon return to parliament because it is clear that Kamoli is on his way out.
“What the opposition will not do is go back to parliament to give legitimacy to an unaccountable government”.
ABC Secretary General, Samonyane Ntsekele also said the opposition still had issues that needed to be addressed before deciding on parliament.
“We are still concerned about a number of issues that we mentioned in June when we began boycotting parliament. We will have to weigh the pros and cons and see what would be the best decision to make now,” Mr Ntsekele said.
Meanwhile, should opposition MPs go ahead with their boycott, the House would only have 65 legislators from the ruling seven-party coalition when it reconvenes.
According to Standing Orders No 3 of the National Assembly of Lesotho, “the quorum of the House and of a Committee of the Whole House shall consist of 30 members besides the person presiding”.
This means the House could still sit without the opposition MPs although it would not be able to fully function because of the absence of the legislators who constitute different committees.