Phori blasts BNP, RCL
- accuses them of rendering govt dysfunctional
SMALL Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister Chalane Phori has accused the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) of working against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and “derailing the effectiveness” of the current coalition.
Mr Phori said due to resistance by the two junior coalition partners, His Majesty King Letsie III declined to act on Dr Thabane’s advice to appoint Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase and Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Janki Hlaahla as chief justice and police commissioner respectively.
The BNP and RCL are the smallest parties in the four-party coalition which also features Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD).
Of late, fault lines have emerged in the coalition with the BNP joining the national executive committee (NEC) of Dr Thabane’s own party to file a Constitutional Court application to have Dr Thabane declared unfit to continue in office and calling for another prime minister to be appointed in his place.
This after Dr Thabane unilaterally prorogued parliament from 20 March to June 2020. The BNP and ABC argue that the prorogation is unconstitutional in that it was not approved by the King. They also argue that they and parliament were not consulted before hand. Although the RCL is not an applicant in the matter, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane claimed in his court papers that the lawsuit had the full support of RCL leader, Keketso Rantšo. The case will be heard tomorrow.
The BNP and RCL are also said to be in talks with the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the ABC and the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) over a new coalition deal to replace the Thabane-led government.
This week, Mr Phori, a self-confessed Thabane loyalist, accused the BNP and RCL of actively frustrating Dr Thabane.
The outspoken minister said Dr Thabane could have appointed Justice Mahase and Senior Assistant Commissioner Hlaahla had it not been for the resistance of the BNP and RCL.
Dr Thabane wants Justice Mahase to fill the post left vacant by Justice Nthomeng Majara who resigned last year after a protracted battle with the premier who initially sought to impeach her over alleged gross misconduct.
Dr Thabane also wanted Senior Assistant Commissioner Hlaahla to replace Commissioner Holomo Molibeli who he unsuccessfully attempted to fire for alleged incompetence.
Commissioner Molibeli successfully challenged Dr Thabane’s bid to oust him in court. He denied allegations of incompetence, saying these were only a smokescreen. The real motives behind the bid to topple him had to do with the premier’s desperate quest to stop him from investigating and prosecuting him for the June 2017 murder of Dr Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo. Dr Thabane has been charged with the murder but the case has been put on hold pending the outcome of Dr Thabane’s application to bar the state from charging him while he remains in office.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Phori accused the BNP and RCL of seeking Dr Thabane’s ouster.
He said only Dr Moleleki and his AD party still had confidence in Dr Thabane.
“The AD has seen this conspiracy (against Dr Thabane),” Mr Phori said.
“The AD has always been clear that it has confidence in Thabane. You have never heard the AD speaking ill of Thabane. You can tell that the AD is in fact the stumbling block for those who want Thabane out.”
He said had it not been for the resistance from the BNP and RCL, the King could have gone ahead and appointed Justice Mahase and Senior Assistant Commissioner Hlaahla.
“There has always been resistance from some coalition partners every time Ntate Thabane wants to exercise his constitutional right to appoint anyone. That has happened with (the appointments of) the commissioner of police and chief justice. The AD did not have a problem with those appointments because it knows who has the power to appoint people. This is why they (BNP and RCL) attack both Thabane and Moleleki.
“We were told that the King did not sign because the BNP and RCL did not consent to those appointments (of Mahase and Hlaahla). We were told that the BNP and RCL disagreed.
“The truth of the matter is that they want Moleleki out because he supports the prime minister. Moleleki is very clear when it comes to the constitution,” Mr Phori said, adding everyone should understand that the premier was empowered by the constitution to make key appointments.
Mr Phori also defended Dr Thabane’s governance record saying the latter had not engaged in any of the human rights violations witnessed during the previous Pakalitha Mosisili regime’s tenure.
“Ntate Thabane has given people a lot of leeway. His government is challenged by everyone yet no one has ever been thrown into the dams,” Mr Phori said in reference to three Maseru men who were allegedly murdered by soldiers and their bodies thrown into the Mohale Dam during the Mosisili era in early 2017.
Ten soldiers have since been charged with the men’s murder.
Mr Phori said so many atrocities took place during the Mosisili era but things had changed under the current Thabane administration which he said had allowed democracy to flourish, even at the premier’s expense.
“Ntate Thabane has allowed people to practice democracy. He has not gone ahead with appointments of people to crucial positions because parties with only six seats do not support him. This is costing him,” Mr Phori said. The BNP has five seats, the RCL only has one and the AD has 11. Dr Thabane’s ABC has 52 seats but 35 legislators are said to be backing moves to form a new coalition with the DC, BNP, RCL and other smaller parties to replace the current government.
Meanwhile, RCL secretary general Retšelisitsoe Lesana said Mr Phori was wrong in accusing her party over anything said and done by Ms Keketso Rantšo as the latter had been replaced as RCL leader by ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie.
“He (Mr Phori) is mixing up issues. ‘M’e Keke (Rantšo) is the one who is disregarding the decisions of the prime minister not the RCL. RCL has its own leader ‘M’e ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie. It is therefore not true that the RCL is going against the prime minister. It is however true that ‘M’e Keke, who is clearly in denial (that she is no longer RCL leader), is the one who challenges the decisions of the prime minister,” Mr Lesana said.
Efforts to obtain comment from Ms Rantšo were unsuccessful as her mobile phone rang unanswered.
BNP spokesperson ‘Masetota Leshota denied that the BNP had opposed the planned appointments by Dr Thabane.