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Political situation: Maope speaks


Bereng Mpaki

Breaking his long, self-imposed media silence on domestic political matters, former Deputy Prime Minister, advocate Kelebone Maope, this week expressed his concern over the recent statement by security agencies’ chiefs asserting that there will be no constitutional change of government in parliament.

In an exclusive interview with Newsday, Maope said the statement was a direct affront to democratic principles and a stark disregard for the authority vested in parliament.

In an authoritative joint statement on Monday this week, Commissioner of Police (COMPOL), Holomo Molibeli, Lesotho Defence Commander (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and NSS Director General Pheello Ralenkoane categorically stated that there would not be any government upheaval in the parliament.

Molibeli, Letsoela, and Ralenkoane left no room for ambiguity.
They firmly asserted that any upheaval in government should not be sought within the parliamentary chambers, but rather, the focus should shift towards enacting vital comprehensive national reforms.

“The voice of the people resonates with a government that is truly ‘by the people, for the people’, not one tailored for the interests of Members of Parliament. This is why they have advocated for constitutional amendments to safeguard the integrity of full-term governance,” asserted Molibeli, flanked by his colleagues.

The gravity of their statement reverberated across the nation, drawing criticism from various quarters including the Law Society of Lesotho, Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), and Advocates for the Supremacy of the Constitution also known as SECTION 2, among others.

Advocate Maope’s incredulity at the audacity of the security agencies is well-founded.

He explained that the security chiefs’ overstepping of boundaries raises serious questions about the balance of power and the separation of authority within the nation.

By undermining the role of parliament, they have not only shown a lack of respect for the democratic process but have also put into question the very foundations of governance, Maope said.

“I must say I was very surprised as to where they got the authority to speak like that. They do not have the power to tell parliamentarians what to do and not what to do. They disrespected parliament and democracy,” he said.

The security chiefs’ utterances follow a motion of no confidence, introduced last Friday by Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Machesetsa Mofomobe, calling for the removal of Prime Minister Ntsokoane Samuel Matekane and the appointment of opposition leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, as his successor.

The motion stated: “That this House has no confidence in the current government of the Kingdom of Lesotho which is led by the Right Honourable Prime Minister Ntsokoane Samuel Matekane, and the Honourable House begs leave to urge His Majesty King Letsie III to appoint Honourable leader of opposition Mathibeli Mokhothu as Prime Minister.”

The motion has gained traction, finding support from the Democratic Congress (DC) Member of Parliament (MP), Mootsi Lehata, who seconded the motion.

Per the constitution, a no-confidence resolution must include the proposal of an alternative member of the National Assembly for the King to appoint as Prime Minister.

The much-hyped motion of no confidence hit a formidable roadblock on Monday when the ruling Revolution for Prosperity’s (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, petitioned the High Court, seeking to defer the process and challenged the constitutionality of the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution.

Lejone’s move hinged on the belief that the amendment infringes upon the fundamental framework of the Constitution.
Furthermore, he urged a postponement of any parliamentary action related to the vote of no confidence until a comprehensive regulatory framework is established through the ongoing reforms process.

This abrupt development left the National Assembly at a standstill, with Speaker Tlohang Sekhame asserting that discussions on the motion cannot proceed while the matter remains sub judice.
Sekhame cited past instances where similar circumstances compelled the Assembly to suspend its proceedings, emphasising the imperative of upholding the sanctity of legal processes.

In a dramatic press conference earlier on Monday, opposition parties convened a press conference, declaring the backing of 64 MPs for the motion against Matekane.

With only 61 votes needed to send a Prime Minister packing in a chamber of 120 seats, the math seemed to be elementary.
The nation’s long-awaited reforms are now in a state of paralysis as local activists have challenged the process in court.

Advocate Maope,who is also the former Lesotho’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), this week pin-pointed some of the obstacles facing the successful completion of the reforms.

“The reforms will drag on because there are constitutional reforms that need to be endorsed by a referendum, but we have not done that,” he said.

“The changing of the composition of the Senate and State Council are some of the examples of such reforms which need a referendum,” he added.

Maope said he believes that the Matekane-led administration was alive to this fact, and had attempted to address it by segregating the Omnibus Bill into different parts.

He warned, however, that the government needed all stakeholders to pull in the same direction to successfully tackle such pertinent issues arising from the reform process.

Moorosi Moshoeshoe, the chairperson of Lenaka La Mohlomi, an organisation that advocates for good governance and anti-corruption, also told this publication that the utterances made by the three security chiefs were a stark reminder for the sheer importance of completing the protracted national reform process.

Had the process, which involves reviewing problematic laws that govern seven thematic areas including the security sector, been concluded, the security bosses would not find it easy to admonish MPs from attempting to overthrow Matekane’s government through a vote of no confidence, Moshoeshoe said.

He explained that he believes that the panacea for Lesotho’s political and security ills lies in the expedition of the reforms.
He said it was unfortunate that past and present governments had consistently ignored the need to reform the security sector since they benefit from it during critical times such as the reigning situation in the country.

“We have known for a while now that the recruitment of security agency chiefs must not involve the executive arm of the government, and that this can be addressed by reforming the security sector laws,” he said.

He said part of Lesotho’s efforts to resolve its perennial political problems involved a tour of the New Zealand parliamentary system, which ended with a report that recommended how it can reform itself.

“We should have heeded that New Zealand report to get our house in order. It is therefore not surprising to see the security agencies behaving the way they did this week.”

He also narrated that he feels that the country must go back to the drawing board to rekindle the disputed reforms process and see it to its completion if it is to make meaningful progress on the problems that have plagued it since the dawn of its democratic journey.

“It is therefore a wake-up call for the country to expedite resolution of its political and security challenges by concluding the reforms process,” he concluded.

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