Why opposition returned to parly 

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

The opposition alliance says it has decided to return to parliament “to work for the common good of our people”.

The legislators turned up in the August House when it reconvened on Monday after walking out on 9 February in solidarity with four All Basotho Convention (ABC) members who had just been suspended for disrupting the Speaker.

The MPs, from the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), vowed never to return until their concerns had been addressed, top among them the safe return of their leaders who fled to South Africa in May last year.

ABC leader and former prime minister Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo sought refuge in South Africa after claiming their lives were in danger.

Government and the opposition leadership have since met to discuss the leaders’ return and would be continuing with the talks which are also being attended by members of the Christian Council of Lesotho.

On Monday, the majority of the 55 opposition MPs were in parliament as the 2016/17 budget was being discussed.

The M17.423 billion budget was presented before parliament on 19 February 2016 by Finance Minister, Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla.

According to BNP spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe, the MPs had decided to end their boycott and help government meet deadlines set by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regarding Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi’s report. Justice Phumaphi led a 10-member SADC Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s security and political challenges between 31 August and 23 October 2015, and came up with recommendations to address the situation.

“SADC has piled pressure on the government of Lesotho and we need to work for the common good of our people. We have to discuss these issues affecting our nation and we can only do this while we are in parliament. As the opposition, we also have an obligation to see to it that Lesotho returns to normalcy,” said Mr Mofomobe.

“We are also in parliament to tell the Speaker to speed-up the return of our leaders from exile. She should see to it that their return is fully facilitated in a conducive environment.”

Sekatle appeal to MPs

Meanwhile, the chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on the Economic and Development Cluster and Democratic Congress MP for Lebakeng constituency, Semano Sekatle on Monday called for commitment to national development from all legislators.

Mr Sekatle made this call when presenting a consolidated report of the budget before the August House.
“It is high time that we indulge and talk about matters which address the development of this country and its economy, and not these petty issues we are always engaging in,” Mr Sekatle said.
“We are full of jokes, we are always joking instead of addressing issues of national importance. We all need to commit ourselves to be serious, and the time to do so is now.”

According to the portfolio’s committee report, the country’s political climate had played a part in hampering economic growth.
“Since 1966, the political climate has had a toxic effect on socio-economic development. Peace and stability continue to be elusive,” reads part of the report.
“In 2014, the first coalition government collapsed within two years amidst much wrangling, accompanied by threats to suspend parliament. Conflicts and tensions within the security forces have polarised the nation and body politic.
“Despite the February 2015 elections and smooth transfer of power to the new coalition government, political tensions continue to escalate. Leaders of opposition parties fled the country, members of parliament of the opposition parties have since boycotted parliament in sympathy with their leaders and all these continued to affect the business and investment climate.”
These challenges and development partners’ concerns are undesirable conditions against which the 2016/17 budget was prepared, the report adds.
“Some development partners have openly expressed concern and begun to question the justification for their economic support to Lesotho,” states the report.
“The committee appreciates the challenges and pressures, both internally and externally that the minister faces. It is also against this background that the committee sincerely advises the government and this Honourable House to act cautiously in this budget process.”

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