Thabane attacks King Letsie III

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ABC Leader Thom Thabane

. . . seethes at His Majesty’s dissolving of parly without convening Council of State

Billy Ntaote

ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane has lashed out at King Letsie III for acquiescing to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s advice to dissolve parliament, saying His Majesty risked sullying the goodwill of Basotho by being “ensnared” by politicians.

Dr Thabane’s ire was ignited by King Letsie III’s dissolving of parliament on Tuesday to pave the way for the holding of elections after the passing of a no-confidence vote on Dr Mosisili’s government last week.

The former premier and his other opposition alliance colleagues had last week appealed to King Letsie III to convene the Council of State — which is constitutionally mandated with advising the monarch on key constitutional functions including calling for elections.

The opposition bloc, which consists of the ABC, Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho believed that the Council of State would have advised King Letsie III against dissolving parliament.

The Council of State consists of Dr Mosisili, National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai, High Court Justices ’Maseshophe Hlajoane and Lisebo Chaka–Makhooane, Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe, Lesotho Defence Force Commander Khoantle Motšomotšo, Commissioner of Police Molahlehi Letsoepa, Law Society President Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, Principal Chief Mathealira Seeiso, Dr Thabane and BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane.

For their part, Dr Mosisili and supporters of his outgoing seven-party coalition government had maintained that the premier’s advice to King Letsie to dissolve parliament and call for elections was “mandatory and binding”.

King Letsie III’s conundrum was compounded by the seemingly contradictory constitutional provisions with regard to the authority bestowed on the premier and monarch. Some sections of the constitution, such as Section 83 (4) (a), accord the King discretion to disregard the advice of the prime minister.

Section 83 (4) (a) stipulates that the King can agree with or disregard advice by the premier to dissolve parliament and call for elections if it is not “in the interests of Lesotho”.

“. . . if the Prime Minister recommends a dissolution and the King considers that the Government of Lesotho can be carried on without a 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, Section 83 (4)(b) states that “if the National Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the Government of Lesotho and the Prime Minister does not within three days thereafter either resign or advise a dissolution the King may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve Parliament . . .”

King Letsie III eventually dissolved parliament without convening the Council of State much to the opposition alliance’s chagrin.

On Tuesday, His Majesty’s Senior Private Secretary Monehela Posholi wrote a letter to Atty Mosotho, who is also the opposition alliance’s lawyer, stating that King Letsie III opted to dissolve parliament “in the national interest” and to “avoid possible constitutional crises”.

“Having carefully considered all factors, His Majesty decided, in the interest of national unity and to avoid possible constitutional crises, to accede to the advice of the Rt. Hon. The Prime Minister for the dissolution of Parliament in preparation for the holding of general elections,” reads part of the letter to Atty Mosotho.

“We sincerely hope that you will understand and appreciate the predicament that His Majesty faced.”

However, addressing a press conference on Tuesday in which he announced the opposition bloc would challenge the dissolution of parliament in the Constitutional Court, Dr Thabane said King Letsie III risked tainting the image of the monarchy by being “embroiled” in the country’s political wrangles.

In 1994, King Letsie III dissolved parliament and the government led by then premier Ntsu Mokhehle in what was termed a “Palace Coup”. However, under pressure from other nations and Basotho, His Majesty on 14 September 1994 officially restored Dr Mokhehle and his government to power.

Under the terms of the settlement to restore Dr Mokhehle’s government, His Majesty’s father King Moshoeshoe II – who had been deposed and sent into exile by a previous military government – was reinstalled after having been replaced by King Letsie III in 1990.

However, King Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident 15 January 1996 and was again succeeded on 7 February 1996 by King Letsie III who was born David Mohato Bereng Seeiso.

Flanked by his opposition counterparts, Dr Thabane pulled no punches, saying he hoped the monarch would not be dragged into political fights as had happened in the past.

“We have come here to publicly announce our standpoint; which is that we refuse to have the monarchy ensnared in these political disputes,” said the former premier.

“On this issue, I speak with all boldness because I was present at his (King Letsie III) coronation. I was there and I was among some of the people who were giving him guidance.”

The 77-year old ABC leader said King Moshoeshoe II, who was born in 1938, was his peer and not the 53-year old King Letsie III.

“I am telling that child of my King (Moshoeshoe II) to be very careful as my peer is the late Bereng Seeiso and not this one (King Letsie III); this one is a peer to my children,” Dr Thabane said.

“He should be very careful in guarding the image of that office from being tainted as it is a symbol of the unity of the people of Lesotho.”

The ABC leader said the Basotho nation was forged by the nation’s founder, Moshoeshoe I, through alliances with many other chiefdoms that today form part of modern day Lesotho.

“Moshoeshoe, the son of Mokhachane, made alliances with Lethole of Makhoakhoa and Moletsane of Bataung and Batlokoa and many others chiefdoms.

“That office of the King should not be brought into disrepute at all. The person who holds that office, I say it openly, can be removed.

“I am not saying that he should be removed right now, but I am saying he should know that as a Lekhoakhoa, the son of Lethole, who signed an alliance with Moshoeshoe, and speaking as one of the Makhoakhoa people who is still alive, Mokoena (King Letsie III’s totem) scrutinize carefully the advice you are using in that office because it shall bring you into trouble with the people of this country.”

Dr Thabane said King Letsie III was one of the most revered monarchs in Lesotho’s history, adding that he should not risk losing the country’s support and approval.

“If there is a King who has been openly accepted by the people of Lesotho, it is Mohato Seeiso. I wonder what he would be seeking if he destroyed this support he has. Why would he be seeking to destroy the relations he has with his people?

“I have passed the 70 years mark and I only speak the truth because I am now working towards going to heaven when I die.

“I speak these words with a pained heart. King Mohato do not do that to us. No! We refuse that, do not do that to us. You started very well, you started this route very well, stick to your route,” remonstrated Dr Thabane.

The former premier said when Dr Mosisili went to advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament, he no longer held such power because he had been removed from office in a no-confidence motion.

“This person who came to you claiming that he is a prime minister was overthrown. We defeated Pakalitha Mosisili with votes in parliament, now he is going all over the place calling himself something he is not anymore,” added Dr Thabane.

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