TWO opposition parties in parliament have intensified their clamour for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to withdraw his “unlawful order” to the police to assault suspects.
If Dr Thabane does not comply with their demand, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Democratic Congress (DC) say they want the premier to be charged with incitement.
However, All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator for Qoaling constituency, Chalane Phori, yesterday laughed off the opposition parties’ maneuverers, saying they were “desperate” attempts to besmirch Dr Thabane and distract his government from fulfilling its mandate.
Mr Phori said the parties were being hypocritical, since DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili had made similar “and even worse “remarks when he was prime minister.
Last Wednesday, LCD spokesperson and proportional representation legislator, Teboho Sekata, submitted a motion to National Assembly Speaker, Sephiri Motanyane, calling on Dr Thabane to withdraw the remarks.
The parties accuse Dr Thabane of saying police should assault suspects when no one was looking.
However, Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, said in a previous interview that the premier was quoted out of context as part of a smear campaign against him. Mr Thakalekoala said Dr Thabane had actually urged police to be more vigorous in their law-enforcement duties to restore law and order in Lesotho.
The opposition had also submitted a motion to debate the remarks before parliament adjourned sine die (for an indefinite period) in August this year.
However, Mr Motanyane had deemed the matter not urgent, prompting the opposition to accuse the speaker of being biased against them during the chaotic reopening of the august house on 3 November 2017.
DC spokesperson and Malingoaneng legislator, Serialong Qoo, accused the police of “killing innocent people” since Dr Thabane made the alleged remarks.
The police have since refuted the opposition’s allegations and stressed that the law enforcement agency respected the rights of suspects to humane treatment.
Mr Sekata told the Sunday Express on Friday that Mr Motanyane had received the motion, adding that he expected it to be tabled this week.
The LCD spokesman said in the “likely event” that Dr Thabane would not retract the alleged statement, they would push for him to be charged with incitement.
Mr Sekata cited section 23 (1) and (2) of the Penal Code Act of 2010 which states: “A person who counsels, procures or incites another to do any act or make any such omission of such a nature that if the act were done or the omission were made, an offence would thereby be committed, commits an offence.
“A person counsels, procures or incites the commission of an offence if he or she recruits, advises or otherwise encourages another person to commit that offence.”
Mr Sekata also said they would use Section 94 (1) of the Penal Code Act to agitate for Dr Thabane’s prosecution. The section states that a person commits a crime against humanity if he or she engages in torture or “inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury”.
“If Ntate Thabane does not retract his words and he is not called to the police for questioning, then we will know that we are not equal before the law and we are not in a democratic dispensation as we claim to be,” said Mr Sekata.
However, Mr Phori dismissed the parties’ demand as nothing more than a diversionary antic and a “desperate attempt to seek relevance”.
“It’s just a tactic to divert people from the real issues that need to be addressed in parliament,” said Mr Phori, who is also Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister.
“They want to derail the government from delivering what it has promised the nation. People need service delivery and to feel safe in their homes.”
He said Dr Mosisili had made more incendiary remarks while he was still premier.
“I remember hearing their leader saying that suspects should be skinned. As far as I know, that is only reserved for dead animals and not human beings. So they are hypocrites,” Mr Phori added.