MASERU — The National Assembly took a three-week break on Wednesday to allow parliamentary portfolio committees to finish outstanding business.
Leader of the House, Lesao Lehohla, said the closure was necessary as there was currently no business to transact on.
He said the only work to be done was to deal with Bills that are in the Senate.
“Currently there’s no business to transact on except for Bills that are in the Senate,” Lehohla said.
However, the closure did not go down well with opposition party leaders who dismissed it as a self-serving act on the part of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) told the Sunday Express on Friday that there was more to the decision “than meets the eye”.
ABC leader Thomas Thabane and LWP deputy leader Sello Maphalla said the LCD was abusing its majority in parliament by imposing its “internal fights and instability on the rest of us”.
According to Thabane, the LCD had initiated the break so that its MPs could focus on the primary elections for the ruling party’s candidates for the 2012 National Assembly elections.
“The LCD is turning its private issues national. They are definitely attending to extra-parliamentary business. The closure is not based on principle but on personal matters,” Thabane said.
“I have a strong suspicion that the party is planning to call a snap election and are now using their strength in parliament to take time off.”
Thabane added that contrary to Lehohla’s submission that there was no work “there’s so much work that needs to be done”.
“There’s a crisis concerning institutions of higher education, loss of jobs and the threat to food security, which are issues that should be debated in parliament,” Thabane said.
“This is unfair because when a political party is in power, it is representative of all Basotho people, regardless of their political affiliation. But now they are imposing their internal issues on us.”
However, Thabane said he was not surprised by the turn of events because the current parliament was notorious for “shocking us at every turn”.
“This is unique only to this Seventh Parliament. There’s nothing we can do when the majority decides to boycott parliament to attend to internal squabbles,” he said.
“It’s no wonder I no longer participate in parliamentary debates. I don’t even speak for the sake of keeping things on record because this parliament is in shambles.”
Maphalla said the decision by the ruling party to impose a three-week break on parliament “has utterly shocked
“We were shocked to hear Lehohla saying there was no work to be done and that we should close. But we know there’s still a lot of work that needs attention,” Maphalla said.
Maphalla said to his knowledge, he had no less than four motions lined up which needed urgent attention by parliament.
“One of the motions is the proposal to change the National Assembly’s working calendar which currently dictates that we take long breaks and have limited time to work on Bills,” Maphalla said.
“The current situation is that we rush to pass Bills without assessing them and contributing on a fair scale as the opposition. Everything is rushed in this parliament.”
Maphalla said an ideal example would be ministries’ budget presentations in the National Assembly which he labelled “a rushed affair”.
He said ministries were given an hour at most to present without giving the opposition an opportunity to query some of the items.
The LWP deputy leader said he was disturbed by the situation and that like Thabane, he suspected that “there’s something going on”.
“Whatever it is that’s happening has absolutely nothing to do with administrative parliamentary business. Our parliament’s conduct leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth,” Maphalla said.
He added that the factionalism rocking the ruling party should not be used to compromise “the administrative side of things”.
“I’m not in the least convinced that the national assembly has been closed due to reasons provided. There’s something fishy here.”
Meanwhile, Lehohla told this paper on Friday that the opposition leaders were just clutching at straws and twisting issues in their favour.
Lehohla, who is also the deputy prime minister, denied claims that the LCD was abusing its majority to stall business while attending to internal party issues.
“The reasons I’ve provided are as such and valid. This has nothing to do with internal LCD issues. There are people dealing with party business, so that’s beside the point,” Lehohla said.
“There’s no business to transact. Do they want to be just going to parliament on a daily basis to simply pray and disperse? It wouldn’t make
Lehohla said it was unfair for the opposition to expect the bulk of duties to be executed by government when they could also bring in their own draft laws because “private member Bills are allowed”.
“They are aware that parliament is open to draft laws from the opposition, but they’ve never brought them. Nothing is stopping them from legislating, why aren’t they?” Lehohla charged.
He said the government had run out of draft laws to work and there was nothing wrong with that.
“Government has run out of business. So what? What’s wrong with that?” Lehohla quipped.