Thabane dodges no confidence vote

  • as parly adjourns indefinitely

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PARLIAMENT was last week adjourned indefinitely amid widespread speculation that this was done to stave off a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane by disgruntled members of his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the opposition.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, on Monday announced the indefinite closure of the august house but did not give reasons why it had been adjourned.

Before then, the ABC’s Koro-Koro constituency legislator, Motebang Koma, and the opposition Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane had taken Mr Motanyane to task over his failure to announce that a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane had been filed in parliament.

The motion was filed last Wednesday by Mr Koma and it was immediately seconded by Democratic Congress (DC)’s deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa.

Mr Koma proposed that the ABC’s Mosalemane constituency Member of Parliament (MP), Samuel Rapapa, takes over as caretaker prime minister, presumably pending processes that would lead Professor Nqosa Mahao to assume the reins of power.

The no confidence motion is the culmination of the protracted war of attrition between the newly elected national executive committee (NEC) of the ABC fronted by Prof Mahao and the old NEC which has steadfastly refused to vacate office. Prof Mahao is not a legislator and could therefore not be nominated to replace Dr Thabane despite his election as the latter’s deputy at the party’s contentious February 2019 elective conference.

And on Monday, Messrs Koma and Mochoboroane accused Mr Motanyane of delaying tactics, saying the speaker should have announced the motion so that legislators could vote on Dr Thabane’s fate.

“On the 5th of June I submitted a motion of no confidence in the government of Lesotho and it was our expectation that you (Mr Motanyane) would have issued a notice with regard to that motion,” Mr Koma said.

He was supported by Mr Mochoboroane who submitted that the legislators expected the speaker to announce the motion.

“The motion is not just for the people who filed it. Those people merely represent the rest of us who support the motion. It would be good if you postponed the business of the day to iron out any outstanding issues regarding the motion. This motion may have been filed by Mr Koma and Mr Letsosa but it is actually a collective decision and it is a very important issue,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

Mr Motanyane replied by acknowledging receipt of the motion. He however, said that the motion did not meet the “procedural and constitutional requirements” before it could be accepted.

“In terms of parliamentary procedure, the opposition puts a motion to paper expressing lack of confidence in the government.

“By established convention, the government always accedes to the demand from the leader of opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion tabled by the official opposition which in the government’s view, would have the effect of testing the confidence of the house.

“This convention is founded on the recognised position of the opposition as a potential government which guarantees the legitimacy of such an interruption of the normal course of business. On its part, the government has everything to gain by meeting such a direct challenge to its authority at the earliest possible moment. That is the procedural side of the equation,” Mr Motanyane said.

He said it was on the basis of this expert opinion that he felt that the motion was not acceptable as it had been filed by Mr Koma who was a member of the governing ABC rather than by the opposition.

He also said the motion was flawed in that it proposed ABC MP Mr Rapapa as the caretaker prime minister instead of an opposition leader.

“I am not being naughty in saying that Ntate Koma, the proposer of the motion, is part of the government. Even the nominee for the caretaker prime minister’s post, Honourable Rapapa is part of the government. I have not seen that in my long years in parliament,” Mr Motanyane said.

Thereafter, Mr Motanyane adjourned the house and held an almost two hour-long discussion with Messrs Koma and Mochoboroane who had rejected his arguments.

Upon reconvening proceedings, Mr Motanyane announced that he had resolved to seek Attorney General, Advocate Haae Phoofolo’s legal opinion before ruling on the admissibility of the motion.

He said as far as he was concerned the national constitution stipulated that the leader of the opposition in parliament and not a member of a ruling party was eligible for nomination to take over as prime minister in the event of a successful no confidence vote.

He then told parliament that they would revisit the issue of the motion before the close of the day’s proceedings.

However, by the close of business, parliament was indefinitely adjourned without any announcement on the fate of the no confidence motion.

Before the closure, parliament only discussed and adopted Lesotho Congress of Democracy leader Mothetjoa Metsing’s motion calling on the government to address concerns by wool and mohair farmers that they were suffering due to late payments for their produce. The farmers also complained that they were not being adequately paid for their produce. It was resolved that parliament should establish a committee to look into the farmers’ grievances.

Meanwhile, some legislators have condemned the indefinite closure of parliament, saying it was done to frustrate the no confidence motion.

Pro-Mahao ABC legislator for Qalabane, Motlalentoa Letsosa, said the closure was an “unlawful delaying tactic to buy time for the Thabane administration to find ways of averting an imminent collapse of the government”.

Mr Letsosa said they were in talks with the opposition over whether or not to challenge the closure of parliament in the courts of law.

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