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Another indefinite parly closure looms

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PARLIAMENT is headed for another indefinite closure after Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki on Friday moved a motion for a sine die (indefinite) adjournment of the House.

The motion for the indefinite closure was due to have been moved tomorrow under notice number 205.

However, Qalabane legislator, Motlalentoa Letsosa of the Democratic Congress (DC), on Friday said the decision to adjourn the house tomorrow had been withheld to make way for discussions on the revised wool and mohair regulation.

Mr Letsosa said Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister, Chalane Phori, will tomorrow present the amended wool and mohair regulations as proposed by the parliamentary ad hoc committee established to investigate the problems in the wool and mohair sector.

The parliamentary ad hoc committee, comprising of 17 legislators drawn from the governing parties and the opposition, found that the wool and mohair regulations of 2018 had impoverished thousands of Basotho and called on the government to immediately repeal the controversial regulations.

The ad hoc committee also urged the government to ensure that all farmers are paid their dues for the wool and mohair they delivered to the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC).

From May 2018 when the regulations were gazetted until August 2019, farmers could only sell their produce through the LWC in Thaba Bosiu which enjoyed a monopoly in the wool and mohair industry.

The farmers bitterly opposed the regulations and in June 2019 they staged what they called the “mother of all demonstrations” in Maseru to force the government to repeal the regulations and allow them to sell their produce via South African brokers, BKB, as they had done for 44 years until last year when the new laws were passed.

The embattled government responded by adopting opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader, Mothetjoa Metsing’s motion for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate the state of the wool and mohair industry as part of efforts to address the farmers’ grievances.

The resolution to amend rather than repeal the regulations was reached after Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, advised that repealing the law would worsen the farmers’ plight as they would have to wait longer for the government to come up with new regulations.

Mr Mofomobe argued that farmers were already frustrated with the slow payments and they were stuck with more produce which they cannot sell.

The amended regulations were meant to have been discussed on Thursday but Mr Phori was a no show resulting in a nasty brawl in the House that left some legislators injured.

And Mr Letsosa on Friday said Mr Phori is now expected to bring the amended regulations to parliament tomorrow.

“The revised wool and mohair regulations are scheduled to be discussed on Monday which would have been the day for the sine die adjournment as per the notice paper. A consensus to postpone the sine die adjournment was reached by the speaker (Sephiri Motanyane) and political party leaders in a meeting on Friday,” Mr Letsosa said.

It is not clear when Mr Moleleki’s motion would be moved, after the discussions on the wool and mohair issue, and why it is sine die.

Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane yesterday suggested that while the business committee was yet to communicate the date for the adjournment, it was already time for the summer break.

Mr Motanyane could however, not comment on why it would be a sine die adjournment.

“The adjournment of the house is handled by the business committee and it has not yet set the dates for the next break. However, we are already within the time for a summer break,” Mr Motanyane said.

If the sine die adjournment passes, this would be the second time this year that the house would be closing indefinitely after it was again closed in June this year following a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

The no confidence motion was originally filed in June 2019 by Motebang Koma, the ABC’s Koro-Koro constituency legislator and it was seconded by the DC’s Mr Letsosa.  The motion was moved as a split in the ABC ravaged the party and a faction loyal to deputy leader Nqosa Mahao moved to oust Dr Thabane.

Much to the chagrin of the pro-Mahao legislators and their opposition allies, parliament had then been indefinitely adjourned since June, without a vote on the motion.

Mr Motanyane threw out the no confidence motion last week on the grounds that it did not have “any basis in both the constitution and in the practice of parliament”. This despite a legal opinion from Attorney General Haae Phoofolo’s advising the Speaker that the no confidence motion had essentially been properly filed.  The Mahao faction had been within their rights to file the motion as any MP was entitled to file any motion of their choice without any let or hindrance. That was in fact the very essence of democracy, Advocate Phoofolo had advised.

Under normal circumstances, when Parliament adjourns for the summer break, it should have a clear date of return and this is never done sine die. If parliament is adjourned indefinitely again, it can only raise more worries that its all about frustrating the no confidence motion.


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