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THE date for the much anticipated no-confidence motion on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government by the four-party opposition alliance has been tentatively set for Thursday this week.
This is according to All Basotho Convention (ABC) Chairman Motlohi Maliehe, who also revealed that the opposition alliance held a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai to map a way forward after the bloc’s initial bid to table the motion on Friday hit a brick wall.
The ABC and other opposition parties Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho had demanded for a test of the government’s numerical supremacy in parliament to be the first order of business during the reconvening of the house on Friday.
The opposition bloc had submitted a notice of motion for a no-confidence vote to Ms Motsamai last Tuesday, claiming they now had the support of 74 MPs in the 120-member National Assembly. Sixty-one seats are required to form government.
In the motion, which was submitted by the AD’s Kolo constituency legislator Teboho Lehloenya and his ABC counterpart for Mosalemane constituency Sam Rapapa, the opposition proffered Machache constituency legislator and AD leader Monyane Moleleki as Dr Mosisili’s replacement in the event of the motion’s success.
However, during her remarks to open the august house, Ms Motsamai pointed out that the parliamentary Business Committee — which sets the agenda of the National Assembly – needed to be reconstituted in light of the formation of new political parties as well as appointment and dismissal of government ministers.
During the opening ceremony, members of newly-formed political parties crossed the floor, with Mr Moleleki and 14 other elected AD legislators moving from the government side to the opposition. Mr Moleleki jumped ship from Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) last December in which he was deputy leader after failing to wrest the party from the premier.
Former Lesotho Congress for Democracy secretary-general and Movement for Economic Change leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, also relocated from the government side to the cross-bench, which is between the government and opposition.
Former ABC stalwarts, Tlali Khasu and Pitso Maisa, who recently formed the Truth Reconciliation Unity party, also moved from the opposition side to the cross-bench.
Ms Motsamai acknowledged receiving the notice of motion for a no-confidence vote which the speaker said she was still scrutinising.
Ms Motsamai indicated that she would forward the motion to the Business Committee which would then allocate the time the motion would be debated.
With the new configurations in the house, Ms Motsamai said the Business Committee would need to be reconstituted taking into consideration proportionality and gender balance among other factors.
After Ms Motsamai adjourned the sitting, the opposition bloc consulted the speaker in her chambers over when the Business Committee would be formed to facilitate the tabling of a no-confidence motion on Dr Mosisili’s government.
The meeting with the speaker was attended by Mr Maliehe, Mr Moleleki, BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo.
Mr Maliehe yesterday told the Sunday Express they had fruitful deliberations with Ms Motsamai who assured them that the Business Committee would have been reconstituted by Tuesday this week. He said the speaker also indicated that the opposition alliance’s motion would be tabled thereafter.
Mr Maliehe said the pronouncements by Ms Motsamai were procedural, adding that the opposition alliance was expecting the latest date for the tabling of the no-confidence motion to be Thursday this week.
“Usually, the Business Committee has to change following the formation of new political parties in the house,” he said.
“The exception would be a situation where political parties have an alliance and agree to be represented in the committee as a coalition.”
Mr Maliehe said it was in order for the Business Committee to be reconstituted since some of its former members were appointed ministers and could no longer be part of the body according to parliamentary regulations.
“Some of the members of the committee are now ministers and thus have to be removed and replaced with other MPs.
“The Business Committee should also represent the parties in terms of their numerical strength in the house. So, we were assured that Tuesday would be the latest date for the committee to be appointed.”
If the committee was reconstituted by Tuesday, Mr Maliehe said, then the no-confidence motion would be debated and voted on by Thursday.
“If we have the committee up and running on Tuesday, as we have been assured by the speaker, then we can hold a meeting over the no-confidence motion before the end of the same day. We would then let the motion take the required 24 hours before being tabled and have it on the agenda of the house on Thursday,” said Mr Maliehe.
The opposition alliance last week called on Ms Motsamai to be a “neutral umpire” as they bid to unseat Dr Mosisili, amid fears she would frustrate their motion.
Ms Motsamai, who is also the Hloahloeng constituency legislator for the DC, scuttled the opposition’s move to test their numerical supremacy last November when they submitted a no-confidence motion on her deputy, Montšuoe Lethoba.
The motion did not see the light of day after Ms Motsamai indefinitely adjourned the National Assembly on 22 November 2016 saying the House had “run out of time”, much to the opposition’s chagrin.
Ten opposition MPs then lodged an urgent application before the High Court in December 2016 seeking an order to compel Ms Motsamai to reconvene the August House. However, the legislators last month withdrew their application, saying it had been rendered academic since the judges presiding over it had not deemed it as urgent.
Given that the opposition’s no-confidence motion is intended to result in a change of government without the holding of fresh elections, the bloc’s other obstacle is Dr Mosisili’s vow to dissolve parliament and advise King Letsie III to call for elections if he is ousted from the premiership in the National Assembly.
The opposition alliance has since called on the Council of State to advise King Letsie III against dissolving parliament in the event the mooted no-confidence motion succeeds.
The Council of State plays a role in advising the King on key constitutional functions including calling for elections. It consists of Dr Mosisili, Ms Motsamai, two judges (or former judges) of the High Court or Court of Appeal, the army commander, police commissioner, attorney-general, nominees of the prime minister, opposition MPs, and members of the legal profession among others.
The third obstacle for the opposition is Leader of the House Mr Metsing, who is responsible for the management of government business in the National Assembly. It is within Mr Metsing’s powers to add or delay the opposition’s motion in the Business Committee.
Efforts to contact Ms Motsamai were fruitless yesterday.