MASERU — Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya could find himself in trouble over comments he allegedly made about parliament in a newspaper interview.
MP Seabata Thabisi (pictured below), one of the BNP members recently expelled by the party, wants Lekhanya charged with contempt of parliament over remarks he made to a local weekly, Public Eye, a fortnight ago.
On Wednesday Thabisi asked Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai to call the Public Eye editor to testify in parliament about the interview Lekhanya gave the tabloid.
Lekhanya is said to have told the paper that Lesotho’s parliament was “illegitimate” because MPs came in through the mixed member parallel model as opposed to the mixed member proportional representation system as stipulated by the law.
He reportedly told the weekly that MPs were embezzling public funds because they were fraudulently earning from public funds.
Parliament, Lekhanya reportedly said, was “null and void”.
Thabisi, who is now an independent MP after his expulsion from the party last month, requested the speaker of parliament to call the editor of the paper to ask him if Lekhanya had given such an interview.
On Friday Thabisi told the Sunday Express if the statements attributed to Lekhanya in the interview were true then the BNP leader must face a disciplinary hearing for “abusing parliament”.
“If he indeed said parliament is illegitimate I would suggest that he should face a disciplinary hearing,” said Thabisi.
Thabisi’s seat in parliament is also under threat after Lekhanya announced last week that the BNP planned to challenge a constitutional provision that allows MPs to keep their seats even if they are expelled from their party.
“One cannot just say parliament is illegitimate without producing any evidence,” Thabisi added.
“I think if he indeed said it to the paper he should also testify before the disciplinary committee to prove his argument.
“But I can assure you he cannot prove the illegitimacy of the whole parliament and as a result this is abuse of parliament.”
Thabisi said even if there were some MPs in parliament whose seats were contested it was still inappropriate for Lekhanya to suggest that the national assembly was illegitimate.
“If there are some MPs who are not properly in parliament it does not suggest that even those 80 parliamentarians who won elections in the constituencies are not properly in parliament,” he said.
“I think he was just entertaining the media,” said Thabisi, adding that he was “sure Lekhanya would not be able to prove his allegations that MPs were defrauding the people”.
However, Thabisi said it would be the discretion of the speaker to decide whether the matter should be presented in parliament by way of a motion or otherwise.
“If the speaker agrees with me she would call Lekhanya to order,” he said.
“She would then decide if he should face disciplinary action or not.”
According to procedure, if parliament decides that an MP should be charged for contempt of parliament the matter will be referred to the parliamentary privileges committee.
The committee, which is equivalent to a disciplinary committee, will then conduct a hearing and make recommendations to the house.
If found guilty an MP might be expelled from parliament or suspended for a period ranging from three months to the end of his or her term as a legislator.
Lekhanya, however, said he stood by what he told the paper.
“I still maintain that this parliament is illegitimate,” the former military ruler told the Sunday Express on Friday.
“Even (former Botswana president Ketumile) Masire said the model was not properly applied,” he said in reference to the parliamentary proportional representation model.
“So where does this parliament get legitimacy?”
Masire was appointed by the Southern Africa Development Community regional bloc to mediate in Lesotho’s dispute over the allocation of parliamentary seats.
Lekhanya said Thabisi was trying to fight back because he was expelled from the BNP.
“He raised this issue because he has been expelled from the party,” he said.
“He is trying to get me expelled from parliament.”
Lekhanya said he was ready to face a disciplinary hearing.
“I am ready for any disciplinary hearing but I would like to point out that our interview with Public Eye was in Sesotho,” he said.