DC vows to sue parly speaker
. . . as Motanyane torpedoes party’s coalition bid
THE Democratic Congress (DC) has vowed to challenge in court National Assembly Speaker Sephiri Motanyane’s decision to thwart its bid to retain the official opposition party status by forming a coalition with two other parties.
DC spokesperson, Serialong Qoo, told the Sunday Express yesterday that they, along with the National Independent Party (NIP) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), intend to take the legal route if Mr Motanyane “does not reconsider his ruling”.
PFD leader Lekhetho Rakuoane and his NIP counterpart, Kimetso Mathaba, echoed Mr Qoo’s posture, saying they would seek the intervention of a court of law “if all amicable means of redress fail”.
Parliament reopened on Friday after a winter adjournment on 7 August this year. Before the break, the DC, NIP and PFD had written to Mr Motanyane expressing their intention to form a coalition in the National Assembly.
The parties also nominated DC deputy leader and Qhoali constituency legislator, Mathibeli Mokhothu, as the official leader of the opposition in the august house – a position equal to that of a deputy minister.
PFD deputy leader, Thabang Kholumo, was nominated as the opposition whip, DC legislator for Qalabane constituency, Motlalentoa Letsosa as chair of the opposition caucus while DC legislator for Senqu, Likeleli Tampane, was nominated as secretary.
The DC needed to join forces with the two parties after one of its legislators, Semena constituency MP Tlohelang Aumane, defected to the Alliance of Democrats (AD) soon after the 3 June 2017 snap general elections. Mr Aumane has since been appointed as Development Planning minister.
With Mr Aumane’s defection, the DC was left with 29 seats; one short of the 30-seat threshold to retain the status of official opposition in the 120-seat National Assembly.
However, All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairperson and Butha-Buthe #5 constituency legislator, Motlohi Maliehe, had on 14 July 2017 raised a point of order asking the implications of the DC’s failure to notch the requisite 30 seats.
Mr Motanyane had reserved ruling on the matter in light of the 30 September by-elections in Hololo, Teyateyaneng and Thupa-Kubu constituencies which were all won by the ABC.
Outlining the rationale behind the ruling, the speaker said he started off by seeking answers to the questions:
l Who becomes the official leader opposition?
l What is the difference between an opposition leader and official leader?
l Who appoints the leader of the official opposition?
l When can an official leader of the opposition lose the benefit?
Mr Motanyane cited Section 95 (1) (h) of the Constitution of Lesotho which provides for the appointment of two MPs to the Council of State by the Speaker.
“The pertinent issue here is in making this appointment, the speaker shall appoint the leader of opposition party or coalition of parties having the next greatest numerical strength.”
He also cited Section 3 of the Members of Parliament Salaries Act of 1998 which states that: “’Leader of the Opposition’ means a member of the National Assembly who is the leader of the political party or coalition of political parties who commands the majority in the opposition and his party or coalition has at least 25 percent of the total membership of the National Assembly.”
The implication of the aforementioned clauses, Mr Motanyane said, was that an MP would qualify as an official leader of the opposition if he/she leads a political party commanding a majority in the opposition.
The legislator would also qualify if his/her coalition of parties has at least 25 percent of the total membership of the National Assembly.
He indicated that the first opposition coalition in parliament was attempted in 2007 by the ABC, Lesotho Workers Party (LWP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and Basotho National Party (BNP).
However, it failed to take off because then National Assembly speaker, Ntlhoi Motsamai, ruled that there was no legal body called coalition of political parties.
Ms Motsamai also stated that the collaboration of the parties on their own could not bring into existence a legal body known as coalition of political parties.
The second coalition was established between the ABC, LCD and BNP after the May 2012 general elections. The third was between the DC, LCD, NIP, PFD, MFP, BCP and LPC in March 2015 while the fourth is the governing coalition consisting of the ABC, AD BNP and Reformed Congress of Lesotho installed after the 3 June snap polls.
Mr Motanyane said the distinguishing factor between the coalition governments with the one proposed by the opposition was that they had been formed before the legislators were sworn into parliament.
It was imperative, he said, to establish coalitions before legislators have taken their seats in parliament to avoid disturbing the allocation of portfolio committees which reflect proportionality in parliament and diversity of political parties as well as gender balance in the august house.
“In terms of precedence by Hon Speaker Motsamai on the coalition of ABC, LWP, MFP and BNP, I am obliged by the rule of precedence to uphold the previous speaker’s ruling which has become part of the rules of practice because it was not challenged and thus remains binding on other speakers and parliaments that follow,” ruled Mr Motanyane.
“The intention of DC, NIP and PFD to form coalition at this stage and point is also flawed since it is un-procedural in that it deviates from the established practice of forming coalitions prior to members taking seats in parliament and therefore establishing a complexion which can and should only be affected or changed by reasons of floor crossing.”