Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader, Joang Molapo, says opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) are not going to be in the legislature when it reconvenes tomorrow after it adjourned indefinitely on 1 July this year.
Chief Molapo says the 55 MPs from the BNP, All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho(RCL) would continue their parliament boycott which started on 23 June until their leaders return safely from exile and army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is fired.
Former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, his BNP and RCL counterparts Thesele ‘Maseribane and Keketso Rantšo respectively, fled to South Africa in May this year claiming some members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) led by Lt-Gen Kamoli, were out to kill them.
Efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to broker their safe return have not been successful, and Chief Molapo says the MPs’ protest would continue until their demands are met.
Chief Molapo also says other Basotho exiles in South Africa, who fled the country early this year citing the same LDF fears, should be allowed to return home unconditionally and their safety guaranteed and only then would the MPs consider returning to parliament.
The ABC has 46 MPs in the 120 legislature, while the BNP and RCL have seven and two seats, respectively.
“As the BNP, we are certainly not going back to parliament when it reconvenes on Friday. But if there are MPs from other parties who want to go, by all means they are free to do so. However, I am confident those from the opposition will not be going back until our concerns are addressed.
“What prompted our boycott were security issues facing our country and if the situation does not change, we cannot go back to parliament. Government is feeling the pressure hence these desperate threats that there would be by-elections in the 41 constituencies which were won by opposition candidates in February’s elections,” said Chief Molapo this week.
But according to Chief Molapo, by-elections would only result in government’s embarrassment. The prime minister’s Political Advisor, Fako Likoti, warned last week that opposition’s continued boycott of parliament would result in by-elections in their constituencies.
“If we were to lose our seats, as has been threatened by the government, we are going to regain them in the resultant by-election because the ruling parties (Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy) have lost support since the (28 February 2015) elections.
“This security issue has cost the governing parties a lot of credibility and support, and if we were to go for an election today, they would have a shock of their lives. So basically, calling for by-elections would be a dangerous gamble,” said Chief Molapo.
Prime Minister and DC leader Pakalitha Mosisili and his coalition partners were “desperate” for opposition MPs to return to parliament to enable their government to function, Chief Molapo added.
“The government is desperate, as we speak, because we have put so much pressure on it through this boycott. What we want is for Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, as the Leader of the House, to go to parliament and apologise to us, as MPs, over his statement following the killing of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao (on 25 June this year by his military colleagues. Lt-Gen Mahao was shot allegedly as he resisted arrest for mutiny).
“We also want him to take our questions and genuinely answer them before parliament. Secondly, Kamoli should step down from the LDF command and only then, can we say we have an accountable government,” noted Chief Molapo.
The former Home Affairs minister said Lt-Gen Kamoli “is the only liability to government”.
The SADC Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi heard damning evidence against several LDF officers and Lt-Gen Kamoli during its 31 August-21 October sitting as it probed Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder. The commission is currently compiling its report in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
“What does the government think is going to come out of the Phumaphi Commission? This government should do the right thing and tell Kamoli to go. Our leaders would definitely return home once he steps down, and we have always maintained this.”
Chief Molapo added: “Why are they refusing to diffuse the situation? Lesotho would be stable as we speak, had they listened to our concerns. These congress parties are failing to see the light and do what is right just because we are the ones demanding it.
“We don’t understand why Kamoli is being lauded as their hero when he has not been accountable for incidents that took place under his watch. Common sense should prevail.”
According to Chief Molapo, the opposition’s demands for accountability have government in a quandary as they have the support of the international and donor community.
“This government would gain itself so many friends by simply removing Kamoli. We know that even the Americans did not mince their words when they demanded accountability over those tragic incidents of 30 August 2014 when the army invaded three police stations in Maseru, resulting in the death of one police officer. And now the situation has been compounded by the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao.
“All we appeal for is to take Lesotho forward. We cannot let those responsible for this instability to go scot-free.”
For his part, RCL deputy leader, Motloheloa Phooko said all stakeholders from the opposition would be meeting today to make their final decision on parliament.
However, Dr Phooko said it was “inconceivable” that the MPs could decide to end their boycott while their leaders, opposition party supporters and some LDF members are exiled in South Africa.
“What would those MPs gain from attending parliament when issues that prompted the boycott have not been addressed by the government?” said Dr Phooko.
Meanwhile, ABC legislators were set to meet yesterday to come up with their final decision on the parliament issue.