‘Elec­tions are the best op­tion’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

Ba­sotho on satur­day choose mem­bers of the 9th Na­tional as­sem­bly in one of the most-an­tic­i­pated elec­tions in the coun­try’s his­tory. the polls come two years early due to the col­lapse of the all Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) al­liance, which gave rise to Le­sotho’s first coali­tion gov­ern­ment in June 2012. In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, speaker of the 8th Par­lia­ment, sephiri Motanyane (75), tells Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane why Le­sotho finds it­self in this dif­fi­cult po­si­tion and what could be the best out­come of the polls.

LT: You presided over one of the most tur­bu­lent leg­is­la­tures in Le­sotho’s his­tory, and the na­tion finds it­self go­ing for elec­tions two years early due to the col­lapse of the ABC, LCD and BNP gov­ern­ment. Could you walk us through the short jour­ney of 8th Na­tional As­sem­bly and how Le­sotho ended up with a coali­tion gov­ern­ment?

Motanyane: Le­sotho’s con­sti­tu­tion says there shall be a prime min­is­ter who will be ap­pointed by the King act­ing on the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of state. the con­sti­tu­tion fur­ther notes the prime min­is­ter shall be a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) lead­ing a po­lit­i­cal party or coali­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties with the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the Na­tional as­sem­bly. and be­cause no sin­gle party won the 26 May 2012 elec­tions with an out­right ma­jor­ity, the ABC, LCD and BNP came to­gether to form the re­quired ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment.

the three par­ties then chose hon­ourable Mot­soa­hae thomas tha­bane to be the leader of the al­liance, and he sub­se­quently be­came the prime min­is­ter. MPS from cer­tain smaller par­ties also came to­gether to form what they called the Bloc and pledged sup­port for the coali­tion gov­ern­ment. the Bloc had nine seats in Par­lia­ment while the coali­tion had 61. this sup­port in­creased the coali­tion MPS from 61 to 70 in the 120-seat Na­tional as­sem­bly. In terms of a mo­tion for a vote-of-con­fi­dence, or no-con­fi­dence, it is al­lowed that you ei­ther sup­port gov­ern­ment from within or out­side.

this means there­fore, that the Bloc was sup­port­ive from out­side be­cause the MPS were ac­tu­ally not mem­bers of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment. I al­ways held a dif­fer­ent view from peo­ple who main­tained that the coali­tion was in gov­ern­ment through a slim ma­jor­ity of 61 seats. th­ese peo­ple seemed not to con­sider the other nine seats from the Bloc.

this is ex­actly why the coali­tion gov­ern­ment did not col­lapse when two of its mem­bers (Mophato Monyake and thabiso Litšiba of the ABC) crossed the floor to form a new party (Pro­gres­sive Democrats) and join the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Congress (DC), re­spec­tively. It was be­cause the coali­tion now had 68 seats, not 59 as many peo­ple thought, which was still more than the min­i­mum 62 seats it re­quired to re­main in power.

LT: So how did the prime min­is­ter find him­self in trou­ble when he had sup­port from other par­ties and not just the BNP and Lcd—the lat­ter which is blamed for the col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment? Motanyane: Dis­agree­ments ree­ments within al­liance, in par­tic­u­larr be­tween the prime min­is­ter and his deputy, Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing (LCD leader). the LCD now wanted to part­ner rt­ner with the DC and that was a prob­lem rob­lem due to our Mixed-mem­ber Pro­por­tion­alo­por­tional (MMP)( MMP) elec­toral model. the he sys­tem al­lows for rep­re­sen­ta­tion of two types of MPS, name­ly­mely win­ners of con­stituen­ci­escies and those nom­i­nated byy par­ties though Pro­por­tional al Rep­re­sen­ta­tion (PR). In this sys­tem, if MPS on the PR list cross the floor orr de­cide to leave their par­ties, es, they lose their par­lia­men­tary men­tary seats. So it was dif­fi­cult for the DC, which had 41 con­stituency and seven PR seats, to cross over to the LCD be­causeuse the party would lose its seven PR seats.ats. again, it was hard for the LCD, which had 12 con­stituency andd 14 PR seats, be­cause off the same rea­son. so as much as they wanted to form orm a part­ner­ship, the two par­ties could not be­cause of the rea­sons I have just men­tioned.

how­ever, what could have worked in the plot to re­move the prime min­is­ter was for the DC to cross-over to the LCD while it re­mained part of the gov­ern­ment. and then MPS from the two par­ties would meet in­ter­nally as a cau­cus to nom­i­nate a new prime min­is­ter. If they were con­sti­tut­ing the ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment, the MPS would then in­form me, as the speaker, through a let­ter, that they had nom­i­nated so-and-so as the new prime min­is­ter. If I was con­vinced of their ma­jor­ity, I would then in­form the Coun­cil of state about this change. the Coun­cil of state was then go­ing to ad­vise the King to ap­point a new prime min­is­ter nom­i­nated by the ma­jor­ity MPS. this process was go­ing to be safer than the no-con­fi­dence route they de­cided to take early last year.

LT: The no­tice of a mo­tion for the no-con­fi­dence vote the MPS wanted to pass on Dr Tha­bane was in March last year. But what hap­pened to it?

Motanyane: such a move is bound to fail be­cause if the prime min­is­ter be­comes aware of it, he can then ex­er­cise his con­sti­tu­tional rights and pro­rogue par­lia­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing 12 months. the prime min­is­ter could also ei­ther re­sign or ad­vise the King to dis­solve Par­lia­ment, and call for elec­tions. We saw it in the 8th Par­lia­ment where the prime min­is­ter ended up pro­rogu­ing the house for nine months on 10 June (2014).

At the same time, the gov­ern­ment filed a case against the mo­tion be­fore the courts. and be­cause of the sub-ju­dice rule, par­lia­ment could not dis­cuss the mo­tion pending the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the court pro­cesses, lest that amounted to in­flu­enc­ing the out­come of the case. so that mo­tion was never dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment and not be­cause the speaker blocked it, but sim­ply be­cause it was still pending be­fore the courts.

LT: There was an al­liance of MPS, mainly from the DC and LCD, claim­ing to be 72 in num­ber. Their ar­gu­ment was they were enough to re­move Dr Tha­bane as prime min­is­ter be­cause they were now the ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment. What be­came of their plan?

Motanyane: I was never of­fi­cially made aware of the ex­is­tence of this al­liance; I only heard of a meet­ing they held some­where off Par­lia­ment’s premises. If things had been done ac­cord­ing to the law, we should have seen the MPS cross­ing the floor in day­light in Par­lia­ment to form their al­liance. We were now sup­posed to see them form­ing the ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment and nom­i­nat­ing their own leader to be the prime min­is­ter. But to this day, I am not con­vinced this al­liance had as many as 72 MPS as its lead­er­ship claimed. LT: If we could take you back a lit­tle… what then­the hap­pened af­ter the no-con­fi­dence votevo on Dr Tha­bane could not go ahead?

Motanya Motanyane: things got tough. there was now ob­vio ob­vi­ous ten­sion in the house so var­i­ous par­ties d de­cided to ap­proach sadc (south­ern afri african Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity) for in­ter­ven in­ter­ven­tion. I guess that was when my role as t the speaker of Par­lia­ment ended be­cause s sadc sub­se­quently took over, lead­ing to t the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where we are go­ing fo for elec­tions on 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015.

LT: InI your opin­ion, are elec­tions a solutionso to Le­sotho’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity chal­lenges?

Motanyane: they are be­cause Ba­sotho can choose a new gov­ern­ment once again. at the mo­ment, we don’t have a cabi­net that is sup­posed to make de­ci­sions for the bet­ter­ment of the na­tion. In other words, there are no col­lec­tive de­ci­sions be­ing made for the good of the na­tion. Even sadc, as the fa­cil­i­ta­tor, can­not rec­on­cile our dif­fer­ences. It has to be us lead­ing the way to a bet­ter Le­sotho, so elec­tions are the only way to re­solve our prob­lems.

LT: What do you think is the best out­come of the elec­tions for a more sta­ble Le­sotho?

Motanyane: Chances are the elec­tions will still pro­duce a hung Par­lia­ment sim­i­lar to what hap­pened in 2012. so I can fore­see par­ties com­ing to­gether and form­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment once again. the good thing though, is that our lead­ers have learnt how a coali­tion gov­ern­ment op­er­ates. If the new lead­ers are or­gan­ised, then the na­tion will fol­low suit. there is no magic about that. We don’t need an­other coali­tion which is not go­ing to last its five-year term. We also need a coali­tion which is clear about its man­date from the peo­ple and not end its ten­ure pre­ma­turely. Elec­tions are quite ex­pen­sive, hence the next gov­ern­ment should tread more care­fully to en­sure it does not col­lapse midterm.

LT: You have been in Par­lia­ment since 1965, and you hold the record of hav­ing been a mem­ber of our Na­tional As­sem­bly the long­est. Do you fore­see your­self back as Speaker in the next Par­lia­ment?

Motanyane: I can­not re­ally say what the fu­ture holds for me.

LT: Which po­lit­i­cal party do you be­long to?

Motanyane: I am a life-mem­ber of the LCD. I joined the party a long time ago be­cause I be­lieve in its poli­cies. But as you can re­mem­ber, I de­clared that I was no longer ac­tive in pol­i­tics when I was nom­i­nated speaker for the 8th Par­lia­ment. the po­si­tion re­quires one to be neu­tral so as we speak, I am still not ac­tive in pol­i­tics.

I can fore­see par­ties com­ing to­gether and form­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment once again. The good thing though, is that our lead­ers have learnt how a coali­tion gov­ern­ment op­er­ates. If the new lead­ers are or­gan­ised, then the na­tion will fol­low suit.

Speaker of 8th par­lia­ment Sephiri Motanyane.

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