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Deputy speaker blamed for parly chaos

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, has blamed deputy speaker of parliament Teboho Lehloenya’s “arrogance” for the chaotic scenes that plagued parliament on Thursday.

A fierce brawl erupted during the Thursday parliamentary session as Mr Lehloenya moved to suspend two MPs accused of rowdy behaviour in the House.

All hell broke loose after the DC’s Mpharane legislator, Phuthuhelo Mafereka, snatched a paper from All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s Samonyane Ntsekele and walked away with it. The paper contained names of DC members, Likeleli Tampane and Serialong Qoo, whom Mr Lehloenya had targeted for suspension for allegedly interrupting parliamentary proceedings after they had insisted that wool and mohair issues be addressed.

Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister Chalane Phori had been expected to submit the amended wool and mohair regulations as had been ordered by parliament a fortnight ago. However, Mr Phori was a no show at parliament and the wool and mohair issue was not part of parliament’s business of the day.

Offended by this, opposition MPs repeatedly stood on points of order, insisting that wool and mohair issues be prioritised and that no other business be discussed.

Opposition MPs then repeatedly disrupted proceedings by shouting at the top of their voices to drown any other person who attempted to speak.

This resulted in Ms Tampane and Mr Qoo being identified as the main “disruptive” elements.

As per parliament procedure, their names were given to Mr Ntsekele as the most senior minister in parliament on the day to announce their suspension from the House for one week.

A physical confrontation started when Mr Mafereka seized a paper on which the two MPs names were written from Ntsekele. Mr Ntsekele in turn resisted with the assistance of some pro government MPs.

Chaos then ensued and the MPs started exchanging blows with furniture being trashed.

In the ensuing ruckus, Agriculture and Food Security minister Litšoane Litšoane was hit on the head and landed with a thud on the floor.

By the time the melee ended, Mr Litšoane and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, were bleeding from head injuries.

Mr Mochoboroane, who bled profusely, received first aid assistance from fellow party members, deputy leader Tšepang Mosena, and ’Mantšiuoa Mosothoane before he was taken to a local hospital for further attention.

Mr Letsosa said the confrontation could have been avoided if the deputy speaker had addressed the opposition’s concerns instead of frustrating them. The opposition specifically wanted to have wool and mohair regulations addressed to ensure that farmers go back to selling their produce to buyers of their choice from wherever they want.

“The incident was caused by the deputy speaker (Mr Lehloenya)’s arrogance and it could have been avoided,” Mr Letsosa said.

“So many people stood on a point of order but he had to single out Ntate Qoo and Mme Likeleli.”

Mr Qoo and Ms Tampane were eventually suspended for a week from attending parliament.  And true to form, the duo were barred from entering Parliament on Friday. The main entrance to parliament was fortified with police officials who barred them from entering.  They then spent the whole morning on Friday camping outside the main entrance of Parliament.

Mr Letsosa said rules had been flouted and the two legislators should not have been suspended.

“The procedure is that the speaker names members that he feels are interrupting parliament business. The names will then be given to the most senior cabinet minister who will then read them out for suspension.

“In a case where a member is suspended for one day, such a person will leave the session immediately without any debate. But when members are suspended for a week (like was the case with Mr Qoo and Ms Tampane), that automatically lands itself into a motion that should then be debated with a vote by the house.

“This legal procedure was not followed in suspending the two members and this is typical of a failing government that does not have the numbers. He (Mr Lehloenya) should have called for a debate but he avoided it because they knew that we would win the vote,” Mr Letsosa said.

Mr Letsosa said he has filed a motion to challenge Mr Lehloenya’s decision to suspend Mr Qoo and Ms Tampane.

A committee of parliamentarians has been appointed to investigate the cause of the Thursday’s brawl while Mr Phori is now expected to table the amended wool and mohair regulations this week.


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