FIREBRAND former All Basotho Convention (ABC) spokesperson, Tefo Mapesela, has called on ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections as the governing coalition no longer commands the majority in parliament.
Mr Mapesela’s remarks, which are contained in recently recorded audio clip, come against the background of power struggle within the ABC which resulted in the filing of a no confidence motion against Dr Thabane by a faction loyal to his party deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao.
The no confidence motion was filed in June 2019 by Motebang Koma, the ABC’s Koro-Koro constituency legislator and it was seconded by opposition Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa.
Mr Koma proposed that the ABC’s Mosalemane constituency legislator, Samuel Rapapa, takes over as caretaker prime minister and effectively warm the seat for Prof Mahao. Prof Mahao is not a legislator and could therefore not be nominated to replace Dr Thabane despite his election as the latter’s deputy at the party’s contentious February 2019 elective conference.
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. This after the speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, ruled that the motion did not meet “procedural and constitutional requirements” for it to be accepted. He said the motion ought to have been filed by the opposition and not by Mr Koma, an ABC legislator. He also said the motion was flawed in that it proposed Mr Rapapa as the caretaker prime minister instead of an opposition leader.
Parliament re-opened on 18 October 2019 and despite several attempts by the Mahao faction and their opposition allies, Mr Motanyane did not allow the motion to be tabled and voted upon. He stunned all and sundry last Wednesday when he ruled that the motion was inadmissible and had to be thrown out.
He cited his original arguments that Mr Koma’s motion could not be tabled and debated in parliament because it had not been filed by a member of the opposition as per parliamentary conventions.
He said although he had sought and obtained Adv Phoofolo’s opinion on the issue, the opinion was not binding and he was free to rule as he saw fit on the admissibility of the motion.
Prior to Mr Motanyane’s shock Wednesday ruling, an audio clip of Mr Mapesela demanding that the motion be tabled and voted upon surfaced and it has since gone viral on social media.
Mr Mapesela, who is said to be a Thabane loyalist, is heard saying the tabling of the motion must be prioritised over all other motions and voted upon.
He says it is necessary for the motion to be voted upon and in the event that Dr Thabane loses, he should advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.
He says this is necessary to give Dr Thabane a fresh mandate to govern because the government has lost the majority as the Mahao faction is consistently voting with the opposition against the government and thus preventing the passage of laws in parliament.
“They should prioritise this (no confidence) motion and not this chicanery that they are tabling,” Mr Mapesela is heard saying. “Let them table it now or else we from Mokhotlong shall have to table it.
“We have overlooked this for long time. This is politics and let him put on his soccer boots and go to His Majesty because our issue with Likatana (Professor Nqosa Mahao’s faction) has not been resolved and even the courts of law have failed to solve it,” Mr Mapesela said. Although he does not say who should “put on his boots and go to His Majesty,” this is most likely in reference to Dr Thabane, who as prime minister, has a constitutional right to advise the king to dissolve parliament and call for fresh polls in the event of a successful no confidence vote against his government.
“All that has to happen is for one to go for elections. That’s the only thing to do. Basotho are the ones who will decide on our fate.
If we don’t make it (win the elections), we will just have to go and look after our pigs and chickens or go sell apples in the streets. Right now what we are doing is unfair because you don’t have numbers.
“There is no government right now because Likatana (Prof Mahao’s faction) are voting with opposition and we are not passing any laws. So why are you still sitting there (in parliament), is it just for you to get paid,” Mr Mapesela asks in the clip.
He also took a swipe at DC leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, accusing him of being a thief who after misappropriating funds in his previous job as a teacher, now wanted to snatch power by backing the no confidence motion. Mr Mokhothu has consistently called for Mr Motanyane to allow the motion to be tabled and voted on. He has also expressed confidence that the DC would still cruise to victory should Dr Thabane refuse to give up power and calling for fresh polls in the event of successful no confidence vote against his government.
Asked to elaborate on the audio, Mr Mapesela said he would not speak to this publication “not today or ever” because “your paper seems to have a personal vendetta against me and I shall not give you any interviews. Whatever I say, you shall take from other media platforms”.
On his part, Mr Mokhothu said he would not respond to Mr Mapesela’s utterances. He said Dr Thabane “should the right thing and dissolve parliament”.
“All that we want is to go for elections,” said Mr Mokhothu.
Mr Mapesela, who is also the Mokhotlong legislator and Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation minister, is no stranger to controversy.
The former Defence and National Security minister has previously clashed with the defence, police and intelligence chiefs accusing them of undermining his authority and plotting against the civilian authorities. He also attacked fellow minister, Samonyane Ntsekele (Water Affairs) accusing him of interfering with his ministry when he (Mr Mapesela) was at the helm of the Defence ministry. He was moved to the Forestry ministry in a 3 October 2019 cabinet reshuffle by Dr Thabane.