Opposition’s bid to petition parly flops

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Billy Ntaote

A bid by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) to have a list of their grievances read in the House failed yesterday after the Speaker, Ntlhoi Motsamai, said she needed to verify the number of legislators behind the petition.

The list had been submitted to Ms Motsamai in the morning by All Basotho Convention (ABC) Member of Parliament (MP), Sam Rapapa, to be read when the House sat for the afternoon session.

However, Ms Motsamai refused to read the document, pointing out some of the MPs’ signatures were not on the petition despite declaring it had been endorsed by all the 55 opposition MPs.

The Speaker then demanded to see the leaders of the three-party alliance in chambers to discuss the matter, but the MPs objected, insisting they wanted the petition read “as it is”.

The MPs belonged to the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), and insisted all they wanted was for the Speaker to highlight why they have been boycotting parliament since 26 June this year.

After the Speaker refused to bow to their demands, ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu explained the MPs who refused to sign the petition had “their own reasons”, adding however, this did not make the document fake.

But Ms Motsamai would still not be moved and went on to ask National Assembly Clerk, Fine Maema, to announce the next item on the day’s agenda. However, as Mr Maema started to make the announcement, the MPs rose from their seats, creating pandemonium in the August House. The legislators then filed out of the house one by one, insisting they would not return until their grievances were met.

In their letter of demand, the MPs wanted the Speaker to address several complaints pertaining to the country’s security and their leaders’ decision to seek refuge in South Africa six months ago.

Former prime minister and ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo fled the country in May after claiming some members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)  were out to assassinate them. The three leaders alleged the group of assassins was being led by LDF commander Tlali Kamoli, but both government and the military have dismissed the claims.

Reads the MPs’ letter: “We the undersigned members of the opposition, hereby notify your good office that we have the following serious concerns that may affect our attendance in the National Assembly.

“On 26 June 2015, we walked out of parliament after (former army commander) Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao had been assassinated by members of the LDF (the previous day in Mokema, just outside Maseru).

“We considered this to be indicative of the prevailing security situation in Lesotho. We maintain our position that this Honourable House be given a full account of this issue by government.”

The MPs also accused Ms Motsamai of denying them an explanation over the death of Lt-Gen Mahao, who the LDF says was shot as he resisted arrest for suspected mutiny. Twenty three LDF members are being tried by a Court Martial after being arrested between May and June this year, in connection with the alleged mutiny.

“The lawlessness perpetrated by the LDF and apparent helplessness of the relevant institutions and government to take responsibility, has placed the rule of law and sanctity in jeopardy.

“The institutions responsible have neither intervened nor uttered a word regarding this situation,” the letter further reads.

The MPs also speak about the Southern African Development Community (SADC)  summit held in Pretoria, South Africa, on July 3. The meeting resolved that government should create a conducive environment for the safe return of the exiled leaders, and also endorsed the establishment of Commission to probe Lt-Gen Mahao’s death and related security issues.

“Madam Speaker, you are aware that the Extraordinary SADC Double Troika Summit of 3 July 2015 decided, among others, that the Government of Lesotho should create a conducive environment for the return of opposition leaders.

“We have noted with concern that to date, no appropriate steps have been taken in this regard. We urgently request that government facilitates the establishment of an independent, inclusive and local mediation process covering all exiled citizens, within the next 14 days.”

The legislators also want Lt-Gen Kamoli fired and the soldiers detained in Maseru Maximum Prison for suspected mutiny, released in line with a High Court ruling delivered on 5 October this year.

The MPs also demanded the arrest of soldiers accused of various  crimes which the legislators also highlighted.

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