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Opposition MPs return to parliament



Billy Ntaote

Opposition legislators return to parliament on Wednesday this week but only to submit a list of grievances outlining why they are boycotting the august house.

Parliament reconvened on Friday after it adjourned indefinitely on 1 July, but 55 Members of Parliament (MPs) from the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) were not in attendance.

The MPs started boycotting sittings on 23 June in protest at the country’s instability which they say forced their leaders to flee the country.

Former Prime Minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader and former Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, and RCL leader and former Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo fled for South Africa in May, claiming members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were planning to kill them.

The fatal shooting of former LDF commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, on 25 June by the military near his Mokema farm, only added to the MPs’ agitation. After the killing—which prompted SADC to establish a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Mphapi Phumaphi to get to the bottom of the murder—once again declared they would not return to the legislature until their leaders safely return to Lesotho and Lt-Gen Mahao’s killers are brought to book.

On Friday, the legislators stuck to their guns and boycotted parliament’s reopening, although ABC MPs had been deeply divided over the issue.

ABC spokesperson, Tefo Mapesela, yesterday told the Sunday Express the MPs would be back in parliament on Wednesday but only to submit their list of grievances and also appeal to the international community to punish government.

Mr Mapesela told the Sunday Express:  “One of our MPs will submit the opposition parties’ letter of grievances to the Speaker on Wednesday morning for it to be read when the house sits in the afternoon.

“All our MPs are going to be there when parliament session starts in the afternoon, but as soon as the Speaker finishes reading our letter to the house, we are going to walk out once again.

“Our bone of contention remains the same—lack of rule of law in this country, failure by government to observe principles of good governance and democracy.

“We are also troubled by the lack of freedom of speech in this country, especially in the National Assembly.”

According to Mr Mapesela, the fact that the three opposition leaders, and some of their supporters and LDF members, fled to South Africa, means security remains an issue in Lesotho.

“The threats on the lives of our leaders is deplorable, to say the least, and we are also concerned that nothing has been done by government to ensure that they return home safely. Government has also done nothing to address the security issue, which we have repeatedly said is one of the major reasons we decided to boycott parliament.”

Mr Mapesela said the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao was a good example of the “impunity” enjoyed by the LDF, which the opposition has continually complained about.

“We want to see Lt-Gen Mahao’s killers being brought to justice; we need answers from the government, through parliament, over this and the other issue we have raised since we started the boycott in June. We need MPs to hold government to account without fearing for their lives each time they ask critical questions,” said Mr Mapesela.

He dismissed threats that opposition MPs would lose their seats should they continue boycotting parliament.

“Our intention is to follow parliamentary procedures and make the Speaker officially aware of the reasons why we are boycotting the house, so the issue of losing our seats does not apply here.

“We also want to ensure the international community clearly understands why we are boycotting parliament.

“This is why we are inviting representatives of diplomatic missions and government’s international development partners to parliament when our letter is read to the house. We want them to hear our grievances first-hand so that there will be no misunderstanding of our cause; why we are fighting this battle.

“We want the international community to slap the country with sanctions in order to pressure government into respecting the rule of law,” said Mr Mapesela.

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