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Opposition vows to fight Bill

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Opposition parties are planning “revolutionary” resistance including mass action against the controversial Land Bill (2009) passed by parliament on Wednesday.

The Bill was passed largely by ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party MPs after opposition lawmakers had walked out of the august house protesting that there had not been enough consultation about the proposed law.

With the Bill now headed for senate, opposition parties say it’s now time to get people involved in the fight against it.

The plan, they say, is to rally people against the Bill so that even if it becomes a law it will be difficult to implement without popular support.

They say this will be achieved by mobilising “people through mass campaigns to show them that the proposed law is not good for them”.

A co-ordinator of the opposition parties’ ad-hoc committee on the Land Bill, Jeremane Ramathebane, said they will be meeting tomorrow to plan the mass action and discuss the strategy to “sensitise the people about the dangerous clauses in the Bill”.

Ramathebane, leader of Batho Bathong Democratic Party (BBDP) and one of the MPs who have been boycotting parliament since last Friday, said they will be holding public gatherings in all of Lesotho’s 10 districts as soon as possible.

“Parliament may enact it but once it meets the people’s opposition it will not work,” Ramathebane told the Sunday Express on Friday.

“The people have to be sensitised about the wicked clauses in the Bill,” he said.

“That parliament has passed the Bill does not mean that the Bill has ceased to be a cruel piece of legislation.”

Political parties expected to participate in the mass campaign include the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Workers Party, Basotho National Party and Basutoland Congress Party.

The Basotho Democratic National Party, Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) and BBDP are the other opposition parties expected to be part of the protests.

ABC leader Thomas Thabane said he hoped senate will reject the Bill like it did with the sixth amendment to the constitution which the LCD majority in parliament had passed in 2007.

But even if the Bill sails through senate, Thabane said, the Basotho nation will deal with its “evils” and take proper action to “correct the LCD error”.

“In some nations there have been land revolutions and I am of the belief that this is where we are going as a nation,” he warned.

“I don’t know in what form the revolution will come but I am convinced that if the LCD succeeds in enacting this Bill the people will reject it once they understand fully the evils inherent in it.

“Looking at it on the surface one might not see any danger but if you give yourself time to read and think about it you will realise that it is dangerous.”

ABC youth leader Libe Moremoholo said he was ready to fully participate in the campaign against the “unwanted clauses” in the Bill.

Moremoholo said he was particularly disturbed by Clause 6 of the Bill which he said provides for a 20:80 ownership ratio in favour of foreign enterprises that buy land in Lesotho.

“This is tantamount to giving a great portion of our wealth and our ability to create wealth to foreigners,” Moremoholo said.

“We can’t afford to give foreigners 80 percent of our country.

“We need a mass protest against this Bill.”

Moremoholo said soon after the Land Bill becomes law the government will start pushing the Land Administration Bill which he said is meant to force land owners to pay tax.

“Basotho don’t know these things and they should stand up and protect their rights now,” he said.

“Many of our people cannot afford to pay for the plots they own.

“These things were not discussed with them and they do not know that the Land Bill is heralding the introduction of the Land Administration Bill.”

PFD leader Lekhetho Rakuoane said the opposition would  want to emphasise the need to translate the Bill into Sesotho so that it would be easily understood by all people.

Rakuoane said it was urgent for the people to understand the implications of the Bill in their own language before it  becomes law.

“Many people, although they have heard about the Bill and were told that it is meant to grow their economy, still do not understand some of its serious implications,” Rakuoane said.

“Before this proposed law can be effective on anyone it should be written in Sesotho and the people must be given a chance to read it to understand.

“Our people should be well informed before we can impose on them laws such as this one.

“Their views, which they should make with a clear understanding of the implications, should form the basis of the laws we enact as parliament.”

MFP leader Moeketse Malebo believes the Bill should have been put up for a referendum.

“It is not an ordinary Bill which the National Assembly can just pass disregarding the views of the people,” Malebo said.

“Issues affecting land are of great importance and touch on the constitution.”

Malebo said he walked out when the Bill was tabled before parliament because the MFP had appeared before the committee that prepared it and made its views known but they were not listened to.

“I am a member of that committee and I walked out because I could not take part in making a law that would provide for the selling of Basotho land to foreigners.”

Asked why they did not write a minority’s report against the one presented by the committee in parliament, Malebo said it was unnecessary.

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