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Parly reopens amid opposition threats

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote

Parliament is set to reopen on 8 February with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) report into Lesotho’s instability the focus of attention.

Proceedings of the house were adjourned indefinitely on 9 December 2015 as the legislators went for the festive season break.

On Thursday, National Assembly clerk, Advocate Fine Maema (King’s Counsel) issued a circular announcing the house’s reopening.

The proclamation came two days after the SADC Double Troika summit held in Botswana issued government a 14-day ultimatum to publish the report compiled by a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mphapi Phumaphi of Botswana, after initially refusing to do so citing a court case challenging the probe’s legitimacy.

The commission was established by SADC at the request of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and sought to find out the circumstances surrounding the murder of former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao who was gunned down by the military on 25 June 2015 in Mokema allegedly while resisting arrest for suspected mutiny.

On Wednesday, the prime minister told journalists that he would submit the report to parliament within 15 days following the opening of the house, while SADC gave him a 1 February 2016 deadline to make the Phumaphi report public.

But Dr Mosisili also emphasised he would expunge any sections of this much-anticipated report should he find it necessary and in the interest of national security.

According to the Public Inquiries Act of 1994, Section 8, subsection 3: “The Prime Minister needs not table any portion of a report where, in his opinion, public interest, in disclosure of that part of the report, is outweighed by other considerations such as national security, privacy of an individual or the right of a person to a fair trial”.

A senior member of the army, Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi, has taken the Commission of Inquiry to court after accusing it of bias and making him appear a suspect in Lt-Gen Mahao’s killing. The case was one of the reasons why Dr Mosisili had refused to receive the Phumaphi report from SADC—only to do so after Lesotho had been threatened with suspension from the regional bloc during last Monday’s Double Troika summit.

However, Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Molapo yesterday told the Sunday Express the opposition alliance was “strategizing” on how best to return to parliament.

BNP, All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) MPs walked out of parliament on 23 June last year, in protest at the continued exile of their leaders and also demanding the dismissal of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, whom they accuse of a host of wrongdoings.

Former Prime Minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, fled for South Africa in May 2015 after alleging some LDF members, led by Lt-Gen Kamoli, were out to kill them.

The MPs have since added to their list of grievances, among them “answers” over the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao.

Chief Molapo told the Sunday Express:  “We won’t go back to parliament because we have been summoned. We are not Mosisili’s kids. However, Basotho should know we boycotted the house over the killing of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao and the return of our leaders, as well as grave concerns over lack of good governance and the rule of law. We will go back to the house to get the SADC Commission of Inquiry report; not the abridged version, but the original report.”

The opposition, he added, would be meeting to decide on the date the MPs return to parliament.

“We will go there for the original report. This report that the Prime Minister is saying would be doctored is not the one we will return to parliament for. If he thinks we will let him expunge parts of the report, he is misled.

“This was an inquiry intended to investigate him and he cannot expunge its contents. When we ask questions in parliament, they will be based on the original report not this doctored one he is talking about,” said  Chief Molapo.

The ABC has 46 MPs, while the BNP has seven and the RCL has two. The seven parties in government, namely the premier’s Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and National Independent Party (NIP), have a combined 65 MPs in the 120-seat legislature.

 

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