You can run but you can’t hide, Thabane told
- Mahao faction and opposition vow to push on with no confidence vote
THE Thomas Thabane regime has been accused of clutching at straws in a desperate bid to save itself from being swept away in a no confidence vote in parliament.
This follows an unsuccessful bid by the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of Dr Thabane’s ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and its opposition allies to table a no confidence motion against the Dr Thabane-led coalition this week. The motion was rejected by the national assembly deputy speaker Teboho Lehloenya allegedly because it flouted some of the requirements for such motions.
The pro-Mahao ABC faction and its opposition allies however, say there is “simply no hiding place” for the government and they vowed to press on with the no confidence motion.
Thabane’s grip on power is now hanging by a thread after a parliamentary no confidence motion was filed against him on Wednesday.
The motion was filed by All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator for Koro-Koro constituency, Motebang Koma. It was immediately seconded by the Democratic Congress (DC)’s deputy leader Motlalentoa 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 Professor Nqosa 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.
On his part, Mr Rapapa said that he had been consulted on the motion and was ready to take over from Dr Thabane.
Despite being filed on Wednesday, the motion has still not been read out in parliament and tabled for voting amid revelations by the Mahao faction and its opposition allies that Mr Lehloenya had thrown spanners into the works by rejecting the motion.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the opposition in Maseru on Friday, ABC legislator for the Mechachane constituency, Nyapane Kaya, said it was “very disheartening” that Mr Lehloenya rejected the motion on the grounds it allegedly flouted some of the requirements for such motions.
“A motion of no confidence was filed with the Clerk of the National Assembly, Advocate Fine Maema, and he approved that everything had been done according to procedure,” Mr Kaya said at the press conference.
“It is however, very disheartening that after the filing of the motion by the ABC’s Koro-Koro legislator, Motebang Koma, and Motlalentoa Letsosa of the Democratic Congress (DC), the duo were later recalled by the deputy speaker (Mr Lehloenya) who informed them that procedures in filing the motion had been flouted.
DC deputy leader and Qalabane Member of Parliament Motlalentoa Letsosa concurred with Mr Kaya, adding these were simply desperate measures by a regime that had realised that it was being swept away by the raging river of discontent.
“The motion was filed in accordance with Standing order 111 and we did this as we are sure that we have the numbers in the August House (to ensure the success of the no confidence vote).
“We took all the necessary steps in filing the motion and the Clerk of the National Assembly even called the table clerks to type the motion as it had passed all the required procedures, only to be called two hours later to be told that the procedure was flawed.
“Firstly we were told that the motion was flawed because it had been done by someone (Mr Koma) who was part of the government and therefore they would have to cross the floor before they would take that step.
“Secondly we were told that the chosen person (to replace Dr Thabane) was not a leader of any party and therefore this rendered the motion flawed as Mr Sam Rapapa is not a party leader.
“Thirdly we were told that MP Koma is a member of the ABC and therefore he cannot file a motion against his own government. It was said he can only a file the motion after crossing the floor.
“We were also advised that everyone who supports the motion must write their names and append them to the motion or else the motion would not be accepted.
“When someone is being washed away by a river they cling to everything that’s in the water. According to Section 87 (2) of the national constitution the king shall appoint as Prime Minister, the member of national assembly who appears to the Council of State to be the leader of a political party or coalition of political parties that will command the support of the majority of the members of the National Assembly,” Mr Letsosa said, adding that those who opposed the motion had misdirect themselves by wrongly interpreting that section of the constitution.
“They have chosen to use the word ‘leader’ in its literal sense. We have chosen Rapapa because he is a leader according to us and no one gets to determine who should be a leader,” added Mr Letsosa.
The Mahao faction is hell bent on removing Dr Thabane for siding with the old ABC’s NEC which has thus far refused to hand over power to them. Prof Mahao clinched the deputy leader’s post at the ABC’s 1-2 February 2019 elective conference which also saw Mr Rapapa coming in as chairperson and Dr Thabane’s son-in-law, Lebohang Hlaele winning the post of secretary general.
But four months later, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have still not been allowed into office by the old NEC, fronted by its secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele.
A fortnight ago, Dr Thabane said he did not even consider Prof Mahao a member of the ABC. There was therefore no way he should be parachuted to the second most powerful party post ahead of seasoned ABC stalwarts, the premier charged.
However, Prof Mahao appears to be gaining ground in the fight to lead the ABC after the Court of Appeal trashed a judgment by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase nullifying his election. Prof Mahao also appears to be in good stead to win a separate court case, currently in the High Court, challenging his election, judging by the nature of the proceedings and the manner in which the judges are taking the lawyers representing Prof Mahao’s opponents to task.
Buoyed by these developments, Prof Mahao came out guns blazing last week and gave Dr Thabane a week to allow the new NEC into office or face a no confidence vote in parliament. The Mahao faction subsequently filed the motion even before the week deadline had expired last Wednesday. This was after it had been announced that Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the national assembly, Monyane Moleleki intended to move a motion for the closure of parliament last Thursday for its winter break until 13 September 2019.
The Mahao faction enjoys the support of at least 20 legislators who appended their signature to the March 2019 petition calling on Dr Thabane to intervene and resolve the ABC power struggle in favour of the new NEC.
If all opposition parties vote in favour of the no confidence motion, alongside these 20 pro-Mahao ABC MPs, then the no confidence motion will succeed with at least 70 votes out of 120. The DC has 26 MPs, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has 11 while the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) has six seats. The Popular Front for Democracy has three seats while four other opposition parties have a seat each.
Even if the motion succeeds, Dr Thabane can still refuse to hand over power to Mr Rapapa or anyone else and instead advise His Majesty King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.
Speaking at Friday, press conference, Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane said they were aware of that possibility. Mr Mochoboroane said the motion was filed after lengthy deliberations, adding they would not be deterred by the machinations of the deputy speaker and the government.
“We were very careful when we did this. We first read the constitution and we are fully aware that we could even go for elections if that’s what he (Dr Thabane) chooses.
“Whether or not the prime minister chooses to call for elections it is fine. We have weighed all the options and we will not be deterred because we take our mandate from the people,” said Mr Mochoboroane.
National Independent Party (NIP) leader Kimetso Mathaba said the motion was necessary to free the nation from oppression and there was simply no hiding place for the premier.
“We have concrete reasons why we want to do away with the prime minister and therefore we demand that we be allowed to exercise our democratic right. There is no turning back on this one and we are unshaken no matter how long it might take to be passed. There is simply no hiding place.”
Democratic Party of Lesotho leader Limpho Tau said ordering Mr Koma to cross the floor as a precondition to filing the motion was oppressive.
“Setting a precondition for MP Koma to cross the floor in order to register his dissatisfaction with his party is a sign of absolute oppression of him and us by the speakers of the national assembly.
“He (Mr Koma) has a right to speak when he is not happy with his own administration. It is his fundamental right and we won’t allow it. If we don’t stand up to this, we will have failed MP Koma,” Mr Tau said.
DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu said they were fully aware that parliament could be closed this week for the winter break but they were not troubled as they were ready to take other unspecified measures until the motion is tabled.
“Under normal circumstances the motion takes a day to be tabled in the national assembly after its filing. We shall cross that bridge when we get there but people should be ready for more surprises,” said Mr Mokhothu.
The Mothejoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was conspicuous by its absence from the joint press conference. Its absence coincided with widespread allegations that the party had entered into a secret agreement with Dr Thabane and Mr Moleleki to starve off the no confidence vote. (See story on page 4).
However, LCD deputy spokesperson Apesi Ratšele said the nation should not read anything into his party’s absence from the Friday press briefing as they were fully in support of the no confidence motion.
“Even though we didn’t attend, it should be noted that we are 100 percent behind the no confidence motion against the prime minister,” Mr Ratšele told this publication yesterday.