LCD gives Thabane ultimatum
Party tells premier to either lift suspension of parliament or step down
The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), in collaboration with its congress movement partners, is calling for Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to “either suspend the ongoing prorogation of parliament or step down”.
The Sunday Express has learnt the LCD, the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) and Basotho Congress Party (BCP), will stage a “peaceful mass protest” on 1 September, in a bid to pressurise the premier into opening parliament, failure of which the protests would continue until he throws in the towel.
The LCD Acting Secretary General Tšeliso Mokhosi on Friday confirmed that the party—which formed a coalition government with Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Thesele ‘Maseribabe-led Basotho National Party (BNP) in June 2012—would engage in the protest alongside the other congress parties. Mr Mokhosi further said other political parties, civic society, rights groups, students and “all Basotho of goodwill”, would also be invited to take part in the protest until the prorogation is lifted.
Dr Thabane requested King Letsie III to suspend parliament for nine months in June this year, after a bitter fallout with LCD leader Mr Mothetjoa Metsing, who had accused him of not consulting his fellow principals when making key decisions, top among them the prorogation of parliament. The premier had hoped to have ironed out his differences with Metsing by the end of the prorogation on 27 February 2015.
However, opposition parties and the LCD have continued to press for the prorogation to end, arguing there can never be true democracy without parliament playing its oversight role.
“We are organising a peaceful march to either the State House or Government Complex, to deliver a petition demanding that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, either lifts the prorogation of parliament or steps down with immediate effect,” said Mokhosi, who is also the Minister of Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs.
“What people need to understand is that the premier committed to lifting the prorogation of parliament by 14 August (during a 31 July 2014 meeting with Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba in Windhoek, in the presence of LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing and BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo), which he has not done to-date.”
Mr Mokhosi sarcastically added in the LCD’s view “the prime minister has no right to prorogue parliament”.
“That parliament belongs to no one but the public and we urge him to do so with immediate effect because seriously, we cannot wait for February 2015,” Mr Mokhosi said.
“Really, there are two options here: either he lifts the prorogation or calls a fresh election.”
Asked what other avenues the LCD would explore if the premier ignores their demands, Mr Mokhosi said they would explore “other avenues” without elaborating.
“We won’t be deterred by his refusal because we can always explore other avenues because the truth of the matter is parliament is not his,” Mr Mokhosi said.
Contacted for comment, the DC secretary general Ralechate ‘Mokose confirmed the party would join in the protest adding, “You will remember that our position has always been that this prorogation should never have happened”.
Quizzed on his party’s stance regarding the call by the LCD that he “either lifts the prorogation or steps down”, Mr ‘Mokose said his advice to Dr Thabane was “he has played his part”.
“My advice to him is that it’s about time because he has done his part. I worked with him as my Foreign Affairs Minister while I was ambassador and I know his strengths,” Mr ‘Mokose said.
“I fear that his advisors will destroy his good history and credibility and thus spoil his good name.”
He further urged Dr Thabane to “emulate (DC leader ) Dr Mosisili, who stepped down peacefully (after his party had failed to garner the required 61 minimum seats in parliament to remain in power after the 26 May 2012 general election)”.
“The prime minister should call the opposition, admit his failures and ask them to facilitate for a smooth transition of power at the Setsoto Stadium the same way Dr Mosisili in 2012,” Mr ‘Mokose said.
Asked what his party planned to do should the premier not bow to their demands, Mr ‘Mokose said they had “lots of peaceful volleys to throw”.
“But I won’t elaborate though. I choose to reserve our bombshells for later use,” Mr Mokose said.
On his part, the LPC spokesperson, Bokang Ramatšella, confirmed that his party would participate in the protest march.
According to Mr Ramašella, the LPC believes Lesotho has become “an oppressive country” under Dr Thabane’s rule, and reiterated calls for the premier to step down.
“Democracy does not exist under his rule and he does not honour commitments he makes, like the signing of the Windhoek Declaration (on 31 July), only to undermine it later,” Mr Ramatšella said.
“We expect him to lift the prorogation with immediate effect or call it a day by stepping down. As the LPC, we feel that he has lost the credibility to be called Lesotho’s prime minister.”
Mr Ramatšella also revealed that as a measure to exert pressure on Dr Thabane to suspend the prorogation of parliament, the congress parties would , this week “inform the regional and international community about our plans”.
“We will issue local, regional and international alerts so that the whole world is aware of what is happening in Lesotho,” Mr Ramatšella said.
BBDP leader Jeremane Ramathebane also said his party embraced the call by the LCD to engage in a protest march, but said if he had his way, “we would go straight to the King”.
“The BBDP would go straight to the King because he is the one who prorogued parliament, with advice from the prime minister, of-course,” Mr Ramathebane said.
“The King is the right person to go to but because we’re not the organisers of the march, we will just go with the flow.”
Contacted for comment on the planned protest march, ABC secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele exploded in anger, and accused the LCD of sowing confusion and constantly bringing about instability in the coalition government, adding boldly: “THIS TIME THE GLOVES ARE OFF.”
Mr Ntsekele added: “We have been nursing the situation and treating the LCD with kid’s gloves for the past two years. But today I must have you know that the gloves are now off; enough is enough. It also defies logic why the LCD would protest against the same government of which it is a part.”
Mr Ntsekele said he suspected the LCD was planning to stage the march because the party was not interested in engaging in talks and setting a clear roadmap before parliament resumes.
“There needs to be a roadmap that we formulate together as coalition government partners, a guide to what needs to be done once we return to parliament. But you see, the LCD is trying to wriggle out of such talks,” Mr Ntsekele said.
“The question that comes to mind is, what is the LCD running away from? Why are they dilly-dallying about joining the talks so that we can reach common ground before parliament opens?”
The “most shocking thing” about the LCD’s behavior, Mr Ntsekele said, was the fact that the party was engaging in a protest march with among, others the DC, “the same political party the LCD publicly announced it had dumped last week.
“This shows that they were just pulling wool over our eyes when they denounced the DC in public (on 14 August). They have proved to be an untrustworthy lot,” Mr Ntsekele said.
“What the LCD leaders don’t realise is that they are tarnishing their image before the same international community they asked to intervene not so long ago.”
According to Mr Ntsekele who is also Political Advisor to the Prime Minister, it was clear from the LCD’s actions that the party was “baying for the blood of poor Basotho”.
“They are so power-hungry that they would rather see innocent blood being shed, simply to advance their personal agendas. This is a blatant power-struggle.”
Mr Ntsekele added he wanted to set the record straight by informing the public that contrary to LCD claims, Dr Thabane was not against the lifting of the prorogation of parliament but that “we need to agree on certain things”.
“If there is no roadmap, then what are we going there to do? Just to remove the prime minister? These people think we are blind and stupid; they think we’re not aware of their tactics,” Mr Ntsekele said.