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DC plans mass demo over parliament


Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) is planning to hold a “massive” demonstration if Prime Minister Thomas Thabane reneges on his promise to re-open Parliament this week.

According to party spokesperson, Serialong Qoo, the DC expects the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader to reconvene the August House on 19 September in line with Southern African Development Community (SADC) guidelines adopted by the coalition government early this month.

Dr Thabane and his coalition partners—Mothetjoa Metsing and Thesele ‘Maseribane of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) respectively— signed a confidential   declaration in Pretoria early this month in which they undertook to ensure Parliament reconvenes on 19 September.

South African President Jacob Zuma and   SADC executive secretary Stergomena  Tax, witnessed the agreement but Dr Thabane has since indicated he would not be reopening the House on the agreed date due to security concerns.  Dr Thabane suspended parliament for nine months on 10 June 2014 to avoid a no-confidence vote in his leadership of government. The premier has since lifted the suspension as per the SADC agreement, but has refused to set a date for the House’s opening citing security concerns. Among other concerns, Dr Thabane wants Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, whom he fired as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander on 29 August 2014 but has refused to vacate office, to leave the post before he could reopen the Parliament.

Mr Qoo, who is also the Member of Parliament for Malingoaneng, said: “It is true that we would want to stage a massive demonstration on 24 September. However, the protest will only take place if Ntate Thabane maintains that he will not open Parliament on 19 September in line with the declaration he, and his fellow government leaders, signed in Pretoria on 1 September.

“Our members are already working with the police in preparation for this event, and we will meet again with the police authorities on Monday (tomorrow) to finalise issues. At the moment, we cannot really say what route we will take or which authorities we will be handing our letter of grievances to until after the police have cleared and issued us with a permit.”

Mr Qoo further said the DC sought to seek the attention of the international community with the march, with the hope that this would put pressure on Dr Thabane to re-open the Parliament.

“We are expecting that the march will be peaceful as we also call upon communities of goodwill to restore peace in Lesotho,” said Qoo.

The LCD, which is also in support of the re-opening of Parliament on 19 September, has also indicated it would be joining the DC march.

The party had planned a similar demonstration on 1 September, but later called it off following advice from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) that it could turn violent.

“As we speak, the LCD is busy trying to negotiate with Ntate Thabane to re-open Parliament on 19 September, as agreed in Pretoria. We heard about the DC’s intention to lead a demonstration on 24 September if we are not successful in our bid to make sure Parliament is re-opened on the set date. We are surely going to join the DC demonstration if we fail to make Ntate Thabane see reason,” said LCD acting secretary general, Tšeliso Mokhosi.

Meanwhile, in an effort to break the impasse between the ruling parties over the re-opening of Parliament, Mr Zuma was in Lesotho last week and met with Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing and Chief ‘Maseribane.

However, the meeting failed to find a breakthrough in the deadlock, prompting Mr Zuma—in his capacity as the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation chairperson—to call an urgent meeting of regional leaders set for tomorrow in Pretoria to discuss the Lesotho political and security crises.



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