The on-going brouhaha which was begun about a fortnight ago when the co-ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly indicating that it was withdrawing from the coalition government formed with partner Democratic Congress (DC), surfaced again in the house yesterday as some members of the party sought to make good on their claim by crossing over from the government bench.
The fracas which was spearheaded by the opposition bench whose stand is that there is technically no government but a minority setup which should not be entrusted with the public purse, went on until the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lebohang Ramohlanka adjourned the sitting because of technical challenges.
“The House will stand adjourned until tomorrow (today) at 09hrs30 as it seems the technical challenge is continuing,” she said referring to a Hansard recording system which she had announced was down before momentarily halting the proceedings.
The pandemonium had emerged after the ABC founder and former premier Motsoahae Thomas Thabane along with other party members moved from the government side to the crossbench, citing that they are no longer a part of government.
A fortnight ago ABC wrote to the office of Speaker of National Assembly announcing their withdrawal from government but did not cross to the opposition side as was directed by the Speaker of the house Sephiri Motanyane but instead disrupted the intended budget speech presentation by the Minister of Finance Thabo Sophonea.
But yesterday, the octogenarian moved with newly-elected party leader Kabi together with other members of the ABC to demonstrate the party’s withdrawal from the Dr. Moeketsi Majoro-led government.
“I raise on a point of order that ABC along with those that we work with have withdrawn and we should not be counted in government matters because we are no longer a part of it. Let’s all go to the crossbench,” Thabane said as he walked to the parliamentary crossbench flanked by Kabi and the other ABC members.
However, this was challenged by another former premier Pakalitha Mosisili who is also one of the veteran parliamentarians who argued that procedurally, the ABC members ought to have waited for the Deputy Speaker’s order to walk to the crossbench instead of doing that on their own accord as “…what happened now is wrong and out of order”.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition, Monyane Moleleki stated that the government is nothing other than a minority in which they as parliament do not have confidence as espoused in the tabled motion of vote of no confidence the Premier and his government, hence his contention that the house’s scheduled business for the day be shelved.
“I was once talking on a radio and the radio presenter asked what Ntate Mosisili had done (a while ago when Mosisili was Prime Minister) and I said he led a minority government. That brought people to a shock that it was impossible. Here it is, happening now. This is a minority government.
“We have a motion of no confidence in this minority government which should be dealt with before anything else,” he said.
The day’s business entailed tabling of reports viz: Report of the Portfolio Committee on the Economic and Development Cluster on the Annual Budget and Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the Financial Year 2022/2023; Report of the Portfolio Committee on the Economic and Development Cluster on the Supplementary Appropriation (2020/2021) Bill, 2021and Report of the Portfolio Committee on the Economic and Development Cluster on the Lesotho Revenue Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021, subordinate laws and the suspension of standing order number 91(5) making way for budgetary logistics.
Then the enraged Member of Parliament for Qoaling, Chalale Phori rose with haste citing that ABC withdrew from government and by virtue of pulling out of government that leaves it in inexistent state, but was however interrupted by Ramohlanka to come to order.
“When this government was formed, ABC and DC brought a letter to you…no we need to tell you, we can’t allow the public’s money be chowed by a non-existing government…you need to know the truth! Order my foot! Give us a chance to form a new government, they (government) should count themselves or cross over to the opposition. Sit down so that we tell you,” he said addressing Ramohlanka.
The former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Prince Maliehe said they would disrupt the session until the house decided to listen to their petition.
“As ABC we will not proceed with today’s business…we will disrupt parliament until you heed to what we say. We wonder those remaining in government to which party they fall. We want even those with proportional representation to cross over,” he said.
The brawl continued until Ramohlanka adjourned the session.
Earlier this week, Majoro and his Deputy Mathibeli Mokhothu who is also leader of the DC came out to announce that the ABC-DC pact with the support of other minority parties such as the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Basotho National Party (BNP), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) have reaffirmed their numbers to maintain the status quo as legitimate government since they still have the numbers adding up to 66 parliamentary seats which is some five seats over the requisite 61 which is 50%+1 seat to secure a grip on government.
“National Assembly normally has 120 seats and currently has 115. Of those the government enjoys the numbers of parties after the following fashion: ABC has 21 seats, DC has 29, MEC has five, PFD three, BNP four, while BCP, NIP, RCL and MFP have one apiece which makes a total of 66 seats, meaning that this government is more than solid,” Mokhothu told the media this week to ululations of their party fanatics who had gate-crushed the media briefing held at the New State House in Maseru as is norm with political party media briefings.
About a fortnight ago, the ABC at whose helm Majoro sat as Deputy Leader until after the January National Executive Committee (NEC) elections in which he had contested for the number one post which was, however, snatched by former cabinet minister Nkaku Kabi who is Member of Parliament for the Qeme constituency, sought to withdraw the party’s membership to the coalition government in move to pull the government carpet from under Majoro’s feet as he refused to vacate the premiership for his new party leader.
However, the expected collapse of government which would have arisen as a result of the announcement by a faction of the ABC loyal to Kabi, lay in stalemate as the Speaker of the National Assembly Sephiri Motanyane had directed that those members of the ABC intent on withdrawing their party should vacate the government side seats which did not happen.