Speaker under fire

MASERU — National Assembly Speaker, Ntlhoi Motsamai, is under fire from opposition MPs who accuse her of sitting on their motions.

The MPs say while Motsamai has allowed their motions to gather dust she has on several occasions asked them to go back to their personal businesses because parliament “had no business for the day”.

They say Motsamai sometimes shuns their motions in favour of those filed by MPs from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) deputy leader, Sello Maphalla, told the Lesotho Times that he filed two motions, in May and September last year, but “Motsamai has been overlooking them”.

The first motion, filed on May 20, 2009, was a suggestion to parliament’s Standing Orders Committee that the deputy speaker should be elected from the opposition MPs.

“Neither the speaker nor the clerk in her office have brought the motion to the house for discussion despite that I filed it a long time ago,” Maphalla said.

“Even at times when the house does not have business, we just pray and disperse to our respective homes instead of bringing motions such as this one to the chamber for discussion.”

Maphalla said on September 7 last year he and Motumi Ralejoe, an All Basotho Convention MP for Lithabaneng constituency, filed a motion proposing that the parliamentary calendar be changed to allow more time for MPs to do more productive work.

That motion, Maphalla said, has still not been brought to parliament. 

Ralejoe had suggested that from January to May MPs should have only one week off for Easter holiday after discussing the national budget.

Normally the MPs are told by the speaker or her deputy to go home sine die, or for an unspecified time.

The motion also suggested that the winter break should be two months — June and July — instead of the normal three months break that usually lasts until early September.

The motion also suggested that the summer break should be for the month of December only instead of the normal break that lasts from November to January.

The two MPs also suggested that the Independence break should be shortened from the current two weeks to one.

This motion has not been discussed by parliament despite that it was filed in September last year.

Maphalla said since then the speaker of parliament  or her deputy have on several

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occasions adjourned sessions after only the opening prayer and short announcements.

“Many MPs wait in anticipation for their motions to appear in the order paper but they never appear,” Maphalla said.

“It’s only business from the government side that appears in the order paper without fail.”

Popular Front for Democracy leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, who has since left parliament, said he resigned from the august House before four of his motions were discussed because they were still “stuck” in the speaker’s office. 

Rakuoane says he and Rantelali Shea, an LWP MP, challenged Motsamai’s decision to declare that a motion filed by the Alliance of Congress Parties MP Deborah Raditapole had lapsed and could not be discussed by the House.

Raditapole had filed a motion proposing that Lesotho traders and individuals should not hold permits for importing certain essential goods.

“The speaker ruled that the motion’s time had lapsed just because she was in a hurry to allow the discussion of the one that was brought by the government,” Rakuoane said.

“Shea and I stood up to challenge the speaker’s decision by filing a motion. She has not brought our motion to the chamber for discussion like she did with ’M`e Raditapole’s motion.”

Rakuoane also said in February last year he filed a motion proposing that the national budget be decentralised and allocated according to the needs of Lesotho’s districts.

“That motion is in limbo,” Rakuoane said.

“The speaker, for reasons known only to herself and her clerks, has not brought it to the House for discussion.”

He also said early last year he filed a motion suggesting the formation of a public sector bargaining council.  That motion has not been discussed in parliament as well.

 “It is common knowledge that the House often adjourns without business. It boggles one’s mind why those days without business are never used to discuss these motions.”

The Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader, Jeremane Ramathebane, said motions filed by the opposition MPs “are generally ignored”.

“It happens too often that it looks like normal practice,” Ramathebane said.

“I will not be surprised if someone will seek to defend it because this practice is treated as if it is normal.”

The parliamentary business committee chairperson, Thabang Pheko, who is also the LCD chairman, however said it is wrong for MPs to say that when parliament adjourns after the opening prayer it is because there is no business.

Pheko said parliament’s business was “colossal”.

MPs in different clusters are always busy, he said.

“There is no free time for MPs,” he said.

“Even if there is no discussion in the chamber the MPs are busy with parliament business in their different clusters.”

Pheko gave an example of the leader of the Marematlou Freedom Party, Moeketse Malebo, the chairman of the Parliament Accounts Committee, whom he said actually spent the winter break working.

 “Mr Malebo was busy throughout the whole winter doing parliament business,” Pheko said.

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