By Billy Ntaote
MASERU –– Members of parliament (MPs) are reportedly finalising a grand coalition to oust Prime Minister Thomas Thabane through a no-confidence vote, the Lesotho Times heard this week.
According to sources who spoke to the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity, the alliance comprises all the Democratic Congress (DC) MPs and some disgruntled All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) legislators.
The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), National Independent Party (NIP), Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP), Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) are also said to be part of the plot which has reportedly gathered momentum over the past few weeks.
According to the sources, the MPs want Thabane removed for his alleged failure to maintain stability in the armed forces, arbitrary sacking of ministers, failure to deliver on his election promises and dissatisfaction over powers given to a team known as the “resource group”, which reportedly controls ministries under the ABC.
Sources said one of the meetings strategising the coalition was held at the residence of DC secretary-general Ralechate ‘Mokose.
‘Mokose, however, yesterday said the meeting was a social gathering of people exchanging ideas about national issues.
“I know that in a democratic setting, the law allows people to talk, especially when you see there are threats to national security. So we actually met with some legislators to exchange views over the security threats and how we can advise government,” ‘Mokose said.
‘Mokose denied any knowledge of the grand coalition or any plot to pass a no-confidence on the coalition government comprising the LCD, ABC and Basotho National Party (BNP), and led by Thabane.
“I don’t know anything about any proposed coalition. I don’t know anything. Meeting to discuss national issues does not necessarily mean people end up forming a coalition.
“We, as the DC, have pronounced that we are an official opposition. That is why we initiated for opposition parties to assist government towards bringing stability to the country. But I don’t see why it should be mistaken for a coalition-formation exercise,” he said.
Asked whether the formation of a new coalition would not be in the DC’s favour, ‘Mokose said: “I rather leave that to your imagination.”
‘Mokose stressed that the MPs have a right to convene and talk about national issues which should, however, not be mistaken for a plot against government.
But according to our sources, the intention is to make sure the new coalition secures a majority in the National Assembly first and then lobby support within the Council of State to continue with government rather than dissolve parliament.
“The ultimate plan is to submit a motion of no-confidence in Thabane and propose a new name for a Prime Minister,” the sources said, adding however, an alternative Prime Minister had not yet been identified.
The sources continued: “The plan is also to have the Council of State override the Prime Minister’s advice to the King and advise the monarch, instead, not to dissolve Parliament in the event that the no-confidence motion succeeds against Thabane and he calls for the dissolution of parliament.”
The sources said the grand coalition is lobbying members of the Council of State to utilise Section 83 (4) (a) of the constitution, which says: “In the exercise of his powers to dissolve or prorogue parliament, the King shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister provided that (a) if the Prime
Minister recommends a dissolution and the King considers that the Government of Lesotho can be carried on without dissolution and that a dissolution would not be in the interests of Lesotho, he may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, refuse to dissolve Parliament.”
However the sources said some of the parties, such as the PFD, are divided over joining the planned grand alliance although negotiations and lobbying is still ongoing and at an advanced stage.
Attempts to get comments from leaders of the political parties alleged to be planning Thabane’s ouster, failed until the time of going to press last night.
Asked about the procedure to be taken should an MP want to move a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister, the National Assembly speaker, Sephiri Motanyane said: “When a legislator wants to move such a motion, it has to be sent to my office for approval first.
“Such a motion would then be forwarded to Parliament’s Business Committee for a date to be set for the motion to be tabled in Parliament.
“Such a motion has not been sent to me at present.”
“My position is that I am ready to proceed with the case. But I must emphasise that this country is under the rule of law. The army, as well, has its controlling authority, which it must also obey,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from the army and the Prime Minister’s office regarding the issue.