DEPUTY Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing says the fate of opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) hangs in the balance because of their boycott of the august house since 23 June this year.
Mr Metsing, who is Leader of the House, made the remarks on Wednesday while moving a motion for the adjournment of the house sine die.
He said the opposition bloc’s 41 elected seats were in jeopardy since the National Assembly would be compelled by law to ascertain if the legislators were absent from one-third of the total number of sittings of the house. The opposition’s other 14 seats were awarded by a proportional representation system.
The opposition MPs have been protesting alleged lack of law and order which resulted in their three leaders, former premier and All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane, and Reformed Congress of Lesotho leader Keketso Rantšo, seeking refuge in South Africa in May this year.
The three leaders, and several members of their parties as well as army officers, fled to the neighbouring country claiming the military wanted to kill or arrest them to settle old scores.
Mr Metsing said the opposition MPs would be well-advised to end their boycott “for their own good”.
“We should be thankful for the great work done by Members of Parliament present. However, we continue to appeal to our colleagues to end their boycott,” said the Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader.
“They tried their best (with the boycott), and we heard the issues they are angry about. However, they should know that protesting has its limits because the public will cease to see their relevance in the National Assembly.”
The deputy premier said the law stipulating the minimum number of days an MP should attend sittings would force the National Assembly’s hand in expelling the opposition legislators.
“This law has now put us in a tight spot since they (opposition MPs) continue to boycott the house. The manner in which the law has been written is tricky since it states that we can only calculate how many days an MP attended sittings after the end of a calendar year,” he said.
“If such an MP has attended less than one-third of the sittings, it means he or she ceases to be a legislator.
“It then means if we were to sit down and calculate how many days Parliament sittings were held, some MPs would automatically cease to hold their positions.”
The deputy premier noted the only reason the calculations had not been made as yet, was because “it would plunge the country into an unnecessary crisis”.
“The question is how we can move forward since we don’t want to plunge this country into an unnecessary crisis,” the LCD leader said.
“Government now has to assess measures that need to be taken in line with the law.”
He said the boycott was unjustified since it had nothing to do with parliament.
“If these people (opposition) were protesting over issues that relate to the business of parliament, it would make some sense. In any case, parliament is the right platform for debating issues of disagreement.”
Home Affairs Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, also chipped in, saying the boycott was meant to collapse the coalition government comprising Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress, the Lesotho People’s Congress, National Independent Party, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party, LCD and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). The seven parties pooled their seats together after the 28 February 2015 snap elections had failed to produce a single party with an outright majority in the 120-seat legislature.
“This boycott is a deliberate ploy to nullify the votes of the people. It’s all part of a plan to lead this country into a crisis,” Mr Rakuoane, who is also PFD leader, said.
Contacted for comment, ABC Secretary-General Samonyane Ntsekele said Mr Metsing’s remarks were borne out of “frustration”.
“We know that Metsing is a frustrated man. We listened to our supporters and know fully well what they want,” said Mr Ntsekele.
“We will continue to boycott parliament as a form of protest since we want justice to be done. Metsing is not a legal expert, and we will not accept his warped interpretation of the law.”