THE opposition bloc has accused the seven-party coalition government of embarking on a “disinformation campaign” to mislead the nation into believing that King Letsie III was legally bound to act on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s advice to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections following the passing of the no-confidence vote against government in parliament.
The four-party opposition alliance consisting of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCD) toppled Dr Mosisili’s government in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last Wednesday.
Dr Mosisili has since advised King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for elections.
The King is yet to decide – after seeking the advice of the Council of State – on whether it is prudent to dissolve parliament or to give the reins to a leader of a political party or coalition of political parties who commands the support of a majority of legislators.
The outgoing premier has on numerous occasions declared he would advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for elections if the opposition’s long mooted no-confidence motion succeeded.
And Attorney-General (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe King’s Counsel (KC), has said in his legal opinion in anticipation of the passing of the no-confidence motion titled “Interpretation of Section 83 (4)(b) of the Constitution”, that the prime minister’s advice to the King was a “mandatory obligation”.
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 . . .”
The key words, Adv Makhethe KC says, are the provision that “the King shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister”.
“‘Shall’ denotes a mandatory obligation. In any event, in the context of a system of constitutional democracy that embodies constitutional monarchy, it is settled constitutional law that, such advice is, for all intents and purposes, binding,” the AG avers.
However, BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo told a media briefing in Maseru on Friday that such assertions were “completely false as part 3 of the Constitution deals with summoning, prorogation and dissolution, whereas clause 83 (4) (a) the constitution clearly gives the King powers to consider whether or not the Government can be carried on without dissolution and whether a dissolution would be in the interest of Lesotho”.
Chief Molapo further said that claims that Dr Mosisili’s advice was binding on His Majesty were “false and dangerous” as it weakened the constitution and the Monarchy since Lesotho was not a republic “as the AG seems to think”.
He said while the government was desperate to cling to power, it was however, not right to threaten to use other sections of the constitution to override His Majesty’s decisions in the event that he rejected Dr Mosisili’s advice.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the outgoing government’s efforts to sow confusion and uncertainty among the people of Lesotho as a precursor to precipitating a constitutional crisis. We furthermore condemn the ongoing threats to His Majesty and to continue to insult him through its agent provocateurs,” Chief Molapo said.
He said the King had full discretionary powers to apply his mind and take advice from the Council of State on this matter of national importance as set out in the constitution.
The opposition therefore called upon the nation to show messages of support to His Majesty and also called upon him to exercise his constitutional prerogative to consult the Council of State in deciding the way forward.
Chief Molapo also described Wednesday’s no-confidence vote success as a landmark which was the “first of its kind in Lesotho’s 50-year post-independence history”.
“This vote was a landmark where the opposition dared to challenge the might of the state and won.
“The vote has delegitimised the government and it marked a triumph for democracy where an arrogant and corrupt government that harbours criminals lost the support of the nation,” Chief Molapo said.
He said the “spectacular collapse” of Dr Mosisili’s government proved that Basotho “reject crime in all its forms, including insecurity, corruption, vengeance and the dangerous politicisation of the institutions of democracy including judiciary, the security forces and the public service”.