. . . as LCD leader pushes for reversal of senior appointments
NATIONAL Assembly Speaker Sephiri Motanyane has rejected former deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing’s request for parliament to urge Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to reverse three senior appointments.
Mr Metsing wanted the august house to call for the reversal of the recent appointments of Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and National Security Services (NSS) Director-General Pheello Ralenkoane.
Mr Metsing also called for the reversal of last week’s reappointment of Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal president, arguing that trio’s selection contravened Lesotho’s constitution.
The Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) leader had made the request in a letter to Mr Motanyane ahead of Monday’s sitting in the august house. The National Assembly has since adjourned sine die (for an indefinite period).
Acting Commissioner Molibeli’s appointment came in the wake of an involuntary 90-day leave for Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa by Dr Thabane in June this year.
Commissioner Letsoepa is currently negotiating exit terms with the government, with Acting Commissioner Molibeli expected to replace the top cop on a permanent basis.
Mr Ralenkoane was appointed to the helm of the NSS last month to replace Colonel Tumo Lekhooa who was sent back to his old job as Director of Military Intelligence at the Lesotho Defence Force.
Mr Ralenkoane was recalled after serving in the NSS for almost 33 years before retiring in October 2015.
For his part, Justice Mosito was reappointed as Court of Appeal president more than eight months after resigning from the post.
He resigned on 13 December 2016 after exhausting all legal means to be reinstated in light of a 12 February 2016 suspension meant to pave the way for impeachment proceedings against him.
Justice Mosito accused then premier Pakalitha Mosisili and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe of embarking on a concerted campaign to hound him out of office in setting up the tribunal.
The tribunal was comprised of chairperson Justice Frederik Daniel Jacobus Brand, Justice Noel Victor Hurt, and Justice John Godfrey Foxcroft, all from South Africa. The tribunal completed its proceedings on 20 October 2016 and later on submitted its report to King Letsie III.
Despite Justice Mosito’s resignation, the Dr Mosisili-led seven-party regime went on to dismiss Justice Mosito in a 23 December 2016 government gazette.
Since assuming power after the 3 June 2017 elections, the Dr Thabane-led four-party governing coalition has sought to consolidate its hold on the levers of power.
Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention, the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho cobbled together the 63 seats they won in the elections to form government.
Apart from those three appointments, the new administration has also fired Government Secretary Lebohang Ramohlanka and appointed former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, as Police and Public Safety ministry principal secretary.
In the letter, which was read by Mr Motanyane, Mr Metsing argued that the three appointments flouted tenets of the constitution.
Mr Metsing, who is also the Mahobong #9 constituency legislator, argued that Justice Mosito had been convicted of failing to pay income tax between 1996 and 2014 by the three-member impeachment tribunal.
However, Justice Mosito has insisted that his 13 December 2016 resignation rendered the impeachment proceedings academic.
Mr Metsing also queried Mr Ralenkoane’s appointment citing the latter’s unsuccessful run for a parliamentary seat in the 3 June 2017 elections representing the BNP in the Kolo constituency. Mr Ralenkoane lost to a Democratic Congress candidate.
“I would like to urge the honourable house to call for the cancellation of the appointments of these senior civil servants which were effected against the constitution of Lesotho,” Mr Metsing, who was deputy premier in the seven-party government, said.
“These are the Court of Appeal president, who has been convicted by a tribunal, the appointment of the director-general of the NSS, who contested in the general elections under the Basotho National Party flag and the appointment of the Acting Commissioner of Police, as they all seem to be defying the autonomy of the judiciary, as well as dragging the security institutions into politics.”
In response, Mr Motanyane refused to entertain the matter, saying: “There are other channels that can be followed to challenge such appointments without bringing them before parliament.”
Meanwhile, in the same letter, Mr Metsing also called for a debate on alleged cases of police brutality, saying Dr Thabane had encouraged the police to assault suspects when no one was looking.
Dr Thabane’s Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala, has since rubbished the allegations, saying the premier’s remarks had been misconstrued. Mr Thakalekoala said Dr Thabane had urged the police to be more vigorous in their law-enforcement duties to restore law and order in Lesotho.
“In the past two weeks, two reported deaths were allegedly caused by police brutality in Koro-Koro and Semena. The larger populace believes they were fuelled by the utterances of the prime Minister in one of his rallies and in parliament,” read the letter.
Mr Metsing wanted the motion to be discussed in accordance with Standing Order No. 29, which states that: “Any member who is not a minister may on any day, other than the first day of session rise in his or her pledge and ask leave to move the adjournment of the business before the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.”
However, Mr Motanyane stated that he was not convinced of the urgency of the matter even though he agreed that the matter was of public importance.
This did not go down well with the opposition legislators who walked out of the house.