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Opposition forces parly closure

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa and other opposition legislators have come out guns blazing, accusing government of underhand tactics to block the no confidence motion against Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Letsosa and fellow opposition legislators took their battle to have the no confidence motion tabled and voted to parliament which re-convened on that day as a special sitting.

They forced the Speaker of the National Assembly Parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, to cancel the re-opening of parliament, saying the Friday session was “unlawful meeting” because it had been re-convened as a special sitting solely to discuss the National Reforms Authority Bill of 2019.

Mr Letsosa and fellow opposition legislators argued that the Friday re-opening of parliament as a special sitting was unlawful because a special sitting only happened soon after national elections and its purpose was solely to elect a new prime minister, the speaker and deputy speaker of the national assembly and to swear in legislators.

Mr Motanyane eventually acceded to the opposition demands and adjourned parliament. As a result, parliament will now reconvene tomorrow.

Parliament was indefinitely adjourned two months ago. Mr Motanyane did not give reasons for the adjournment but it was widely believed that the adjournment was to forestall the tabling and voting on the no confidence motion against Dr Thabane. The motion was filed by the ABC’ legislator for the Koro-koro constituency, Motebang Koma, on 5 June 2019. The motion was immediately seconded by the Mr Letsosa.

Mr Koma proposed that the ABC’s Mosalemane constituency Member of Parliament (MP), Samuel Rapapa, takes over as caretaker prime minister, presumably pending processes that would lead Prof Mahao to assume the reins of power.

The no confidence motion is the culmination of the protracted war of attrition between the newly elected national executive committee (NEC) of the ABC fronted by Prof Mahao and the old NEC which has steadfastly refused to vacate office. Prof Mahao is not a legislator and could therefore not be nominated to replace Dr Thabane despite his election as the latter’s deputy at the party’s contentious February 2019 elective conference.

Much to the chagrin of the pro-Mahao legislators and their opposition allies, parliament was indefinitely adjourned in June this year, without a vote on the motion. This after Mr Motanyane ruled that the motion did not meet the “procedural and constitutional requirements” before it could be accepted.

He said the motion ought to have been filed by the opposition and not by Mr Koma, an ABC legislator. He also said the motion was flawed in that it proposed ABC MP Mr Rapapa as the caretaker prime minister instead of an opposition leader.

But on Friday, Mr Motanyane, re-convened parliament as a “special sitting” to enable the first reading of the National Reforms Authority Bill of 2019.

He was later forced to beat a hasty retreat after Mr Letsosa argued that the Friday session could not be referred to as a special sitting.

“The Friday session could not have been called a special sitting because it is not,” Mr Letsosa said.

“Special sittings are only called once following elections and their purpose is solely to elect a new prime minister, the speaker and deputy speaker of the national assembly and to swear in legislators.

“This sitting is unlawful. Today’s business was supposed to be a normal sitting or the speaker (Mr Motanyane) could have at least called it an emergency meeting. However, he Mr Motanyane) would have to convince us beyond reasonable doubt that the matter at hand was indeed needed urgent attention.

“I do not have a problem with the speaker recalling parliament for an emergency meeting. My argument is that the speaker was convening today’s (Friday’s) business in terms of Standing Order 14(2 which allows parliament to be reconvened for urgent pressing issues) yet on the invitation letters he states that he called us for a special sitting. These two (an emergency meeting and special sitting) cannot be used correlatively because their purposes are totally different,” Mr Letsosa said.

With Mr Letsosa and other opposition legislators turning on the heat, Mr Motanyane then backtracked and said the parliamentary session was going ahead in terms of Standing Order 110 which allows him to reconvene parliament for issues that require its attention even if such issues are not specifically covered by any of the standing orders.

Mr Motanyane ordered the business of the reading of the National Reforms Authority Bill (aimed at creating the National Reforms Authority as an independent body to oversee the implementation of the multi-sector reforms) to proceed, saying he would write the necessary special standing order at a later stage.

But the opposition refused to back down, saying the special standing order had to be written first or parliament should be closed. This forced Mr Motanyane to adjourn parliament to tomorrow by which time he expects to have written the special standing order.

“The only logical conclusion is to postpone the order paper to Monday,” Mr Motanyane said before adjourning the house.

In a subsequent interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Letsosa accused Mr Motanyane of wilfully flouting parliamentary procedures in a desperate bid to avoid convening normal sittings that would allow the tabling and vote on the motion of no confidence.

“It is no secret that the Speaker is running away from pressure to table the motion of no confidence. He knows the parliamentary procedure very well and he is doing all these tricks to avoid addressing the no confidence motion. The motion can only be tabled and brought to vote if parliament is convened for normal sittings. That is why he is bringing up all these irrelevant things like special sittings and standing order 110 to further delay the motion paper that he is sitting on in his office.

“But we are not going back on our motion and it will have to be addressed one way or the other,” Mr Letsosa said.

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