MASERU — Opposition parties say Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Parliament Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai should be arrested and face trial for toppling the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government.
The parties are today expected to file a case at the High Court to challenge the legality of the government that Mosisili formed when he dumped the LCD to form the Democratic Congress (DC) last Tuesday.
The DC became the new government on Tuesday to end the LCD’s 15-year rule.
The papers that were being drafted last night will ask the court to declare the DC government unconstitutional and that those who formed it be charged.
Opposition leaders said the idea is that once the DC government has been declared illegal the police will then be under pressure to arrest Mosisili as the person who formed the government and Motsamai as the one who aided its formation.
Although their court papers will not explicitly say so the deputy leader of the Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP) Sello Maphalla believes “what Mosisili and Motsamai did last Tuesday is tantamount to treason”.
“It was just that, treason,” Maphalla said.
At a press conference yesterday the leaders of seven opposition parties urged Acting Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza and Lesotho Defence Force Commander Major General Phatoli Lekanyane to arrest Mosisili and Motsamai for toppling an elected government.
They also said they had told the Sadc Troika which came here on Monday to monitor preparations for this year’s general election that they do not recognise Mosisili as Prime Minister because his party does not command a majority in parliament.
The leaders said Motsamai committed a criminal offence on Tuesday last week when she declared that the newly formed DC was now the new government.
Mosisili broke away from the LCD together with 44 MPs.
Motsamai’s crime, according to the opposition leaders, is that she declared that the DC was now the government without asking its MPs to cross the floor as is required by the constitution.
Instead of asking the MPs supporting the DC to cross the floor Motsamai asked them to stand to have them counted before announcing that they formed the new government.
According to parliament’s Standing Orders, an MP who joins another party officially notifies the Speaker and then crosses the floor.
The opposition leaders said all the 45 MPs that were declared to be pro-DC did not cross the floor last Tuesday.
They also allege that the 45th MP, Sello Ntšinyi, was counted although he was sitting on a wheelchair in the public gallery.
Ntšinyi had been fetched from ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he was recovering from a stroke to go to parliament to cross to the new DC.
Regulations state that an MP can only participate in parliamentary business if he or she is in the “well” (where MPs conduct the business of the House).
The DC has 45 first-past-the post MPs while the LCD remains with 20.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) has 15 MPs while the Lesotho People’s Congress has one.
The remaining 40 MPs do not have rights to cross the floor because they entered parliament through the proportional representation system.
The leaders said by allowing the DC to form a government without floor-crossing and counting an MP who was in the public gallery Motsamai had helped Mosisili to topple the LCD government.
They added that she had continued to violate the law despite objections from other MPs including those from the LCD.
Mosisili’s crime, the leaders said, is that he is the one who instigated the move to topple the government.
He leads a government that came to power through illegal means, they alleged.
The Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) deputy leader, Thabang Kholumo told the press conference that Motsamai was wrong to have declared the DC as government because by so doing she usurped King Letsie III’s powers.
“The constitution is clear that when a political party is formed in parliament and it becomes a majority it is declared as the government by the King at the advice of the State Council,” Kholumo said.
Kholumo also said Motsamai violated the law when she allowed Education Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla, Home Affairs Assistant Minister Lineo Molise-Mabusela, former trade minister Popane Lebesa and two MPs ’Malebaka Bulane and ’Mampho Molapo to continue as MPs after they joined the DC.
The MPs entered parliament through the National Independent Party (NIP) ticket under the proportional representation system.
According to the law once they join another party they should resign and allow NIP’s next in line to replace them.
ABC leader, Thomas Thabane said Mhlakaza should have arrested Mosisili and Motsamai soon after they “committed the crimes.”
“I am amazed as to why Mhlakaza has not taken any action until now,” Thabane said.
“If he feels that he does not have the capacity to do that, then he should invite the army commander to help him,” he said.
“I call on the commissioner of police and the army commander to take action now or resign if they cannot.
“Ntlhoi Motsamai has disrespected the King by usurping his powers. This is a criminal offence,” Thabane said.
The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader, Moeketse Malebo said the manner in which Motsamai ignored the MPs’ points of order showed that she was determined “to topple His Majesty’s government and she succeeded to do it”.
“We have approached the court because we understand both the Speaker and the former Prime Minister Mosisili have broken the law,” Senkatana Party leader, Lehlohonolo Tšehlana said.
“Law breakers should be arrested and it seems law enforcement agents are not interested in this case and therefore we need the court to intervene,” he said.
Tšehlana said the police and the army should act like in 1994 when one Bolofo Matsoso announced that he had toppled the government and he was arrested immediately.
The opposition parties said the LCD was part of the move to have Mosisili and Motsamai arrested.
The LCD acting leader, Lesao Lehohla, has however said although they share the sentiments of parties that held the press conference, his party was yet to decide on what to do.
“We are still consulting our lawyers,” Lehohla said.
The complaining parties include the Basotho National Party, Lesotho Workers Party, African Unity Movement, and Basotho Democratic National Party.