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Ramaphosa throws Thabane a lifeline

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote

PARLIAMENT failed to reopen on Friday as scheduled after South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa told the warring coalition government partners to come up with constitutional reforms that would be discussed when the House eventually reconvenes.

Mr Ramaphosa — who was chosen last week by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to facilitate talks between the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National party (BNP) aimed at breaking the impasse on the reopening of the August House, which was suspended for nine months on 10 June 2014 — returns to Lesotho tomorrow to further engage the leaders of the three ruling parties, the opposition, civil society and other stakeholders.

On his arrival on Thursday, Mr Ramaphosa met King Letsie III, ABC leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, as well as BNP leader, Senior Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane.

Mr Ramaphosa also met members of the BNP, LCD and ABC national executive committees, as well as a Democratic Congress (DC) delegation led by the party’s deputy leader Monyane Moleleki, members of the Senate and the leadership of the Bloc parties.

The Bloc, which comprises the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP), was formed when the coalition administration came to power in June 2012 and undertook to vote with government in Parliament.

According to BNP deputy leader Joang Molapo, who is also the minister of home affairs, discussions held with Mr Ramaphosa were very “fruitful” and dovetailed with what his party and the ABC had been fighting for — which was not to reopen Parliament on 19 September 2014.

The LCD, DC and other opposition parties minus the Bloc, were pushing for the House’s opening on Friday, citing an agreement Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing and Chief ‘Maseribane had signed before South African President Jacob Zuma and SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax, in Pretoria on 1 September, undertaking to reopen it on that date.

Dr Thabane suspended Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote in his leadership due to alleged maladministration, which had been proposed in March this year by Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader, Jeremane Ramathebane. However, the premier has persistently refused to reopen the House citing security concerns — among them the refusal by Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who is refusing to vacate office as Lesotho Defence Force commander despite his dismissal last month by the premier, who accused him of insubordination. The DC, the LCD and their allies have openly said they would go ahead with the no-confidence vote once Parliament reconvenes hence Dr Thabane’s refusal to reopen it, and Chief Molapo’s buoyancy at Mr Ramaphosa’s “positive” attitude.

“He (Ramaphosa) came to us with a very good and positive attitude as he showed he was really interested in understanding the situation and not just to impose the date for the opening of Parliament on us. The date might have been agreed upon to be 19 September, but it is evident that there is need for more time to consider constitutional reforms, that would ensure long-lasting political and security stability in Lesotho.

“Mr Ramaphosa told us we need to hold our horses and that there would not be any pushing for Parliament’s reopening before he, and the rest of the SADC community, can fully understand the dynamics of the situation Lesotho is faced with. He is returning to Lesotho on Monday to continue his consultation with various stakeholders.

“But basically what Mr Ramaphosa emphasised was the need for the government partners to engage one another over the much-needed reforms that would see this country regaining political stability.

“He would also be participating in this engagement process as the facilitator for the restoration of both political and security stability to our country,” Chief Molapo told the Sunday Express on Friday.

According to Chief Molapo, the coalition government would be working on “fixing the structural problems” and not handing over power to another coalition “to govern and let it fix the constitutional loopholes”.

“During the meeting with Ramaphosa, our partners, the LCD, felt that the structural problems should come as a secondary issue after the opening of Parliament. We realise that their interest expectation was that a new coalition government would be formed and only afterwards would the structural challenges be addressed which we cannot let happen,” Chief Molapo said.

The minister also told the Sunday Express that Mr Ramaphosa had brought to Mr Metsing’s attention the need to take the issues of security instability very seriously.

“He (Metsing) was made aware that our leader, Ntate ‘Maseribane, is being protected by the South African police, alongside the prime minister, while he alone, among the coalition government partners, continues to enjoy the protection of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) bodyguards. He was asked if this was not strange and a direct indicator that there was a serious security problem in the country.”

Chief Molapo also said with the security situation noted, the meeting also touched on Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s alleged refusal to attend meetings called by the prime minister, who is also the minister of defence, and therefore, his direct superior.

“This issue would be dealt with once more as part of Mr Ramaphosa’s further facilitation,” he added.

Asked what had transpired during the Bloc parties’ meeting with Mr Ramaphosa, MFP leader, Moeketse Malebo said their meeting had been very brief and to the point.

“Our meeting was quite short; I would say it was about 10 minutes. But he told us that Parliament would not be opened on 19 September as agreed in Pretoria early this month by the three leaders of the ruling parties. Mr Ramaphosa was clear that Parliament would only be opened after due consultations have been made.

“However, he told us that he would be returning to Maseru on Monday for further consultation on the issue, until we agree on Parliament’s reopening and also the date of the election since the SADC meeting of last week agreed that the poll should be brought forward, and would no longer be held in 2017 as originally scheduled,” Mr Malebo said.

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