All set for opening of parliament


…as His Majesty signs Legal Notice No 74 of 2014 approving the House’s reopening in line with the Maseru Facilitation Declaration

Bongiwe Zihlangu

Parliament officially resumes next Friday after King Letsie III signed Legal Notice No 74 of 2014 approving its reopening in line with the Maseru Facilitation Declaration.

According to National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, His Majesty signed the Notice on 3 October 2014.

“Legal Notice No 74 of 2014 was approved and signed on Friday (3 October, 2014) by His Majesty the King, instructing the opening of both houses of parliament on 17 October at 10:30 am,” Advocate Rakuoane told the Lesotho Times this week

Last Thursday, Lesotho’s political leaders signed the Maseru Facilitation Declaration, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), proposing that when parliament resumes, its focus would only be “limited to the passing of a budget for the holding of elections and all other election-related matters”.

The signing of the milestone document, which Advocate Rakuoane described as “a persuading and not binding document”, was done under the watchful eye of SADC facilitator to Lesotho, South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and followed extensive consultations with all political stakeholders. South Africa is also the chair of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (OPDS).

According to Advocate Rakuoane, despite parliament’s prescribed duties between its opening next Friday and dissolution in December, which is to focus solely on election-related matters, individual legislators could still attempt to pass a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister (PM) Thomas Thabane and his coalition government comprising the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP).

“The Maseru Facilitation Declaration is not a binding document, but a persuading document, meaning individual Members of Parliament (MPs) are still at liberty to move a motion for a no-confidence vote against the PM and government,” Advocate Rakuoane said.

“But this will also depend on parties’ stance once parliament resumes. However, if parties decide not to move the motion, then MPs will probably vote along party lines.”

Last month, a total of nine political parties opposing the nine-month prorogation of parliament instituted by Dr Thabane on June 10 this year, met at a local hotel and called upon the PM to reconvene the August House. The MPs also indicated their plans to remove Dr Thabane via a no-confidence vote once the House resumes.

However, Advocate Rakuoane, who is also leader of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD)—a party with three seats in the legislature—warned raising a motion of that nature against the government could only result in delays for the implementation of urgent parliamentary and constitutional reforms, as the move would give the MP the liberty to exercise his powers of dissolving parliament.

“If they decide to move the motion, the PM could also exercise his powers and have parliament dissolved right away,” Advocate Rakuoane said.

“It is a tit-for-tat situation and the only thing needed now is for all parties to compromise in the name of protecting the reforms.

“It is going to be a serious balancing act of the two powers—that of the MPs and the PM.”

These urgent reforms in the PFD’s view, Advocate Rakuoane said, include making constitutional provisions for a caretaker government when the country emerges from an election and adjusting the fourteen-day period within which a new government should have been formed following an election.

Moreover, the PFD leader said, the reforms should include finding a mechanism of “recognising and legalising coalition agreements”.

“Consensus should be reached across the board, as to how this can be done and it should be agreed upon by all parties,” Advocate Rakuoane said.

The current coalition government has been marred with challenges, one of which was failure by the partners to adhere to the conditions of their Coalition Agreement (CA), such as consulting and making key decisions together.

In June this year, a disgruntled LCD leadership announced it was pulling out of the coalition for reasons that included failure by the premier to consult his partners when making key decisions, such as the prorogation of parliament.

Advocate Rakuoane added so crucial are the reforms that even Mr Ramaphosa suggested that apart from election-related business, parliament could also “focus on urgent reforms”.

“So what MPs would rather do, in my view, is to propose more time for reforms once they get to parliament, so that the country goes for elections having worked on them,” Advocate Rakuoane said.

“Failure to have worked on urgent reforms before going for the proposed election will only plunge this country into more problems.”

He added: “In the absence of such reforms, the coming government will be severely compromised and plagued by similar challenges to the ones tormenting the current coalition administration.”

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times has also learnt from authoritative sources that MPs are contemplating proposing a law that would support the cancellation of their M500 000 interest-free loans, which they were supposed to have repaid over a period of five years, now that the life of the 8th Parliament is set to end prematurely.

“I can tell you that there are plans to draft a law that will give MPs immunity from paying their loans,” an MP, who requested anonymity, told the Lesotho Times.

“While I don’t support this proposal, if it goes through, I’d also love to see the provision for such loans being written off completely or at least have them drastically reduced.”



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