MASERU — When Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) toppled the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government in February the then deputy speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, came out guns blazing.
“The Constitution was not obeyed and procedure in parliament was not followed,” Sephiri said in an interview with the Lesotho Times in March.
“As things stand now the DC government is not constitutional. It should not be the government. Constitutionally, the LCD is still the government of Lesotho,” he added with a faint smile on his face.
He was speaking his mind without fear or favour.
History, he said, would judge me harshly if I don’t speak out.
When some MPs started bunking parliamentary sessions last year Motanyane cracked the whip.
“Your primary function, first and foremost as a minister, is you are a parliamentarian. That is you are responsible (sic), that means you are morally accountable,” he said.
After that the attendance during parliamentary sessions improved.
In both cases Motanyane was speaking for the people.
In the first case he was talking about the violation of the people’s Constitution and in the second he was speaking about MPs who had neglected their duty to the people.
Having been sworn in as the Speaker of the Eighth Parliament yesterday Motanyane is now in a position to do more of that.
He will be running Lesotho’s most diversified parliament by way of political party representation.
It won’t be an easy task for the 77-year-old Motanyane but he can count on his experience to help him deal with the challenges.
In his acceptance speech he set the tone by telling the MPs, the very people who had just elected him, that they are “granted liberal but not licentious speech”.
They must enjoy their liberty within the limits, he said.
Those who have known him for years say he is tolerant but firm.
They say he listens to advice but is also fiercely independent.
And when something against his principles is about to happen, he either speaks out or steps aside to avoid his name being tainted.
On February 28 he stepped aside and sat in his office as 45 MPs crossed the floor from the LCD to form the DC government that he later described as unconstitutional.
He said he had seen it coming when the then Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai told him that she wanted to chair the session on that day.
“I was suspicious because it was my turn to chair parliament that day,” he said.
Instead of arguing Motanyane agreed with Motsamai and stayed in his office.
From there he listened to proceedings and what he heard horrified him.
A ruling party was being pushed out of power through illegal means, he said.
Days later he gave his first newspaper interview in five years.
In it, he criticised the way the DC had come into government.
The DC government is not constitutional, he said.
He said it didn’t matter what Mosisili thought of his statements because he was “standing for the truth”.
The people of Lesotho, he added, deserve to know the truth.
That is the man Motanyane is: to him the people come first.
In speaking out against the DC government he was risking his cordial relationship with Mosisili, a man he described as a close friend.
He had served in Mosisili’s government as a minister and at one time he was actually based in his office.
Until the factional fights in LCD became nasty Motanyane thought himself as Mosisili’s confidante.
Then the backstabbing started.
“Yes, I was very close to him (Mosisili), almost like a confidante. But those close to him did all they could to shield him from me,” Motanyane said.
“An elaborate plan was hatched to discredit me and isolate me from him (Mosisili).”
Still that didn’t bother Motanyane as long as Mosisili was respecting the Constitution. When he thought Mosisili had crossed the line he spoke out.
“I believe that even if I have retired (from politics), the truth must come out about what happened in the LCD party,” he said.
He said Mosisili’s split from the LCD was not based on principles.