Ex­iled lead­ers lea no longer MPS: Mets­ing

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

Deputy prime Min­is­ter and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing says ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers are no longer Mem­bers of par­lia­ment (Mps) be­cause of their con­tin­ued ab­sence from the Au­gust house and has urged his party to pre­pare for by-elec­tions in their con­stituen­cies.

Mr Mets­ing, who made the re­marks while ad­dress­ing his party’s youth con­fer­ence in Maseru last Satur­day, fur­ther said by con­tin­u­ing to pay Ba­sotho Na­tional party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) lead­ers the­sele ‘Maserib­ane and Keketso Ran­tšo re­spec­tively, gov­ern­ment was break­ing the law be­cause they have not been at­tend­ing par­lia­ment to war­rant the re­mu­ner­a­tion.

the deputy premier said there was noth­ing wrong with the re­mu­ner­a­tion All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader thomas tha­bane was re­ceiv­ing from the gov­ern­ment as it was his “pen­sion” as a for­mer prime min­is­ter, but pointed out he had au­to­mat­i­cally lost his po­si­tion as leader of the op­po­si­tion by miss­ing par­lia­ment sit­tings along­side Chief ‘Maserib­ane and Ms Ran­tšo.

Dr tha­bane is the Mp for Abia No 37 con­stituency and while Chief ‘Maserib­ane is the Mp for Mount Moorosi No 67 con­stituency. Ms Ran­tšo is in par­lia­ment through one of the two pro­por­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion (pr) seats al­lo­cated to the RCL af­ter the 28 Fe­bru­ary snap elec­tion.

The three lead­ers fled for South Africa in May last year claim­ing their lives were in dan­ger from some mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) but the army has since dis­missed these claims.

“I have se­ri­ous con­cerns that the gov­ern­ment could be vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion by pay­ing par­lia­men­tary ben­e­fits to the lead­ers of the BNP and RCL. Sec­tion 60 (g) of the con­sti­tu­tion spec­i­fies that, and I quote, ‘if, in any one year and with­out the writ­ten per­mis­sion of the pres­i­dent of the Se­nate or, as the case may be, the Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, a mem­ber is ab­sent from one-third of the to­tal num­ber of sit­tings of the House of which he is a mem­ber, one would lose mem­ber­ship of that House,” Mr Mets­ing told the con­fer­ence.

“Last year, the Na­tional As­sem­bly sat 59 times and if you use the one-third for­mula, you will re­alise that one-third of 59 is about 20 sit­tings. But Na­tional As­sem­bly records in­di­cate that op­po­si­tion lead­ers at­tended less than 20 of the sit­tings.

“Again, the op­po­si­tion lead­ers did not get writ­ten ap­proval from the Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly to be ab­sent from the house. So ac­cord­ing to this sec­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion, these three are no longer Mem­bers of par­lia­ment.

“And based on this leg­is­la­tion, this means we could soon be hold­ing by-elec­tions for Abia and Mount Moorosi con­stituen­cies, while the RCL will have to choose a leader from their pr list.”

Mr Mets­ing also said the rea­son why the gov­ern­ment had to act on the is­sue was be­cause con­tin­u­ing to pay the lead­ers could en­cour­age law­less­ness in the coun­try.

“In a coun­try that abides by laws and prin­ci­ples, the gov­ern­ment must be loyal and abide by the law. What the gov­ern­ment is do­ing might re­sult in a de­fi­ant na­tion which does not re­spect the law, claim­ing the gov­ern- ment is also break­ing the law through these pay­ments to the op­po­si­tion lead­ers.”

Mr Mets­ing also said the gov­ern­ment tried to con­vince the three lead­ers to re­turn to Le­sotho but failed.

“I want you all to know that the prime Min­is­ter, Dr pakalitha Mo­sisili, made sev­eral at­tempts to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of the op­po­si­tion lead­ers but they re­fused,” Mr Mets­ing said.

“Ini­tially, Ntate Mo­sisili him­self met with Ntate tha­bane and had a writ­ten agree­ment with him, where he agreed to come back home in line with the con­di­tions out­lined in the doc­u­ment. But Ntate tha­bane never came back.

“As if the prime Min­is­ter’s ef­forts were not enough, the gov­ern­ment en­gaged two min­is­ters (For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter tlo­hang Sekhamane and Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho Rakuoane) to talk to the op­po­si­tion lead­ers but un­til to­day, they have not come even af­ter as­sur­ance that noth­ing will hap­pen to them; that they will be safe. I want to as­sure this youth league con­fer­ence to­day that the gov­ern­ment met its end of the bar­gain but its ef­forts to as­sist the ex­iles liv­ing in Lady­brand and Ficks­burg to re­turn home, failed.”

Mr Mets­ing also spoke about rec­om­men­da­tions made by the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) af­ter its Com­mis­sion of In­quiry in­ves­ti­gated the death of for­mer army com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao. Af­ter Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao was gunned down on 25 June 2015 by mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force who had come to ar­rest him for al­leged mutiny, the gov­ern­ment re­quested SADC to help probe the tragedy. the Com­mis­sion was led by Botswana judge Jus­tice Mpa­phi phumaphi, and in its re­port, made rec­om­men­da­tions to the gov­ern­ment aimed at ad­dress­ing the coun­try’s se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions was the dis­missal of army com­man­der Lt-gen tlali Kamoli; the sus­pen­sion of all sol­diers im­pli­cated in cases of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and trea­son while in­ves­ti­ga­tions into their cases pro­ceed; crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the death of Lt-gen Ma­hao should be con­ducted “ex­pe­di­tiously and com­pre­hen­sively with­out any hin­drance” and also that the gov­ern­ment should en­sure the safe re­turn of the ex­iled op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

Mr Mets­ing told the con­fer­ence that the gov­ern­ment was study­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions and would soon an­nounce its de­ci­sion.

“the gov­ern­ment an­nounced the rec­om­men­da­tions made by Jus­tice Mpa­phi phumaphi to the na­tion and the same gov­ern­ment is busy study­ing those rec­om­men­da­tions. Af­ter the study, the gov­ern­ment will re­vert to the na­tion and an­nounce its find­ings about the rec­om­men­da­tions.

“the gov­ern­ment won’t just take rec­om­men­da­tions and im­ple­ment them with­out care­fully go­ing through them,” he said.

Asked if the op­po­si­tion lead­ers could lose their seats in par­lia­ment as in­di­cated by Mr Mets­ing, At­tor­ney-gen­eral tšokolo Makhethe on Mon­day agreed with the deputy premier.

“From a le­gal point of view, the con­sti­tu­tion’s Sec­tion 60 (g) clearly shows how Mps will lose their mem­ber­ship of the au­gust house,” King’s Coun­sel Makhethe said.

“If the Mem­ber of par­lia­ment breaks the pro­vi­sion, then it is clear that such an in­di­vid­ual will no longer be con­sid­ered an Mp.”

Dr tha­bane on tues­day would not com­ment on the is­sue, telling the Le­sotho Times: “I didn’t hear Mets­ing’s claims, so I can­not say any­thing about what you are ask­ing me. How­ever, I am of the opin­ion that Mets­ing thinks he is a law ex­pert which he is not.”

On her part, Ms Ran­tšo said she was dis­ap­pointed that Mr Mets­ing used “the wrong plat­form” to ad­dress such a cru­cial is­sue.

“It was not proper for Ntate Mets­ing to abuse his party’s youth league elec­tive con­fer­ence to dis­cuss me and my al­lies in the op­po­si­tion.

“I am dis­ap­pointed that in­stead of ap­proach­ing us about such a se­ri­ous mat­ter, Ntate Mets­ing chose to lie about us at a fo­rum we were not present and where we could not de­fend our­selves,” Ms Ran­tšo said on tues­day.

“Ntate Mets­ing mis­led the youths be­cause I ap­proached gov­ern­ment im­me­di­ately af­ter my es­cape and asked for help so I could come back but I didn’t get the help I re­quested.

“I also wrote a let­ter to the Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly in­di­cat­ing that I would not be at­tend­ing to my du­ties be­cause I had fled the coun­try fear­ing for my life.

“If I was no longer an Mp, par­lia­ment could have stopped as­sist­ing (RCL sec­re­tary gen­eral) ‘ Mamolula Ntabe with du­ties I al­ways as­sign her to do on my be­half.

“I have not re­ceived any il­le­gal salary from the gov­ern­ment and don’t know what Mets­ing wants to achieve by his ut­ter­ances. But even if the coun­try can hold by-elec­tions for Abia and Mount Moorosi con­stituen­cies, the LCD will not win those seats.

“It is ac­tu­ally a dis­grace for the whole Deputy prime Min­is­ter to an­nounce such a mis­lead­ing de­vel­op­ment. What he was only do­ing was to give the LCD youths a plat­form to in­sult and dis­re­spect us.”

Re­peated at­tempts to speak with Chief ‘Maserib­ane were not suc­cess­ful but BNP spokesper­son, Mach­esetsa Mo­fo­mobe, was scathing in his re­sponse to Mr Mets­ing’s an­nounce­ment.

“Mets­ing is not qual­i­fied to speak about laws and prin­ci­ples be­cause he is one man who has been dis­re­spect­ful of the con­sti­tu­tion of this coun­try.

“the High Court made a rul­ing and gave the Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) the go-ahead to in­ves­ti­gate his bank ac­counts but he re­fused, which means did not re­spect the law,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

“When he was Deputy prime Min­is­ter dur­ing Ntate Tha­bane’s reign, Mets­ing de­fied a de­ci­sion by His Majesty King Let­sie III, with ad­vise from the prime min­is­ter, to re­move Kamoli as army com­man­der.”

Mr Mo­fo­mobe also said Chief ‘Maserib­ane in­formed the Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker about his ab­sence from the leg­is­la­ture. the Le­sotho Times could not im­me­di­ately ver­ify this claim, as well as a sim­i­lar state­ment made by Ms Ran­tšo.

“Since his es­cape to South Africa last year, Chief ‘Maserib­ane has made sure that at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery Na­tional As­sem­bly ses­sion, he writes a let­ter to the Speaker of the House, Ntl­hoi Mot­samai and in­forms her that he still fears for his life and as a re­sult, can­not make it to par­lia­ment sit­tings.

“there is a record that he didn’t just aban­don his du­ties as an Mp.

“Mets­ing must be clear if he is try­ing to win con­stituen­cies he lost in last year’s elec­tion, but he must be warned that his party will not win them. Morena the­sele was elected by Mount Moorosi res­i­dents and not Mets­ing so he can’t just take away the peo­ple’s choice with­out their con­sent,” Mr Mo­fo­mobe said.

Deputy prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing.

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