Africa

Cracks in Lesotho's ruling pact

Caswell Tlali

The tripartite coalition government of Lesotho is splintering, with its sponsor BBDP leader Jeremane Ramathebane in custody for suspected fraud.

Beleaguered Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. (AFP)

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's tripartite coalition government is splintering after a motion of no confidence was filed with the clerk of the National Assembly last week.

The motion is, however, unlikely to be tabled before Parliament this week after its sponsor, Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader Jeremane Ramathebane, was arrested and kept in police custody.

Police say Ramathebane had committed fraud by enrolling people as members of his party without their consent when he registered with the Independent Electoral Commission to participate in national elections in 2006.

Communications Minister and government spokesperson Selibe Mochoboroane said this week that Ramathebane's arrest on fraud charges just as he had been about to table his motion of no confidence was a coincidence.

Mochoboroane said that, according to Parliament's standing orders, a motion cannot be tabled in the absence of its owner.

Coalition
Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, the former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party and the Basotho National Party (BNP) formed a coalition government in June 2012, with a slight majority of 62 MPs out of 120.

Should the motion be passed, former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, leader of the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party, is seen as a likely candidate to replace Thabane.

Although the motion of no confidence was lodged by MPs from two opposition parties, some MPs from Thabane's own ABC party – former law and correctional services minister Mophato Monyake and former secretary general Thabiso Litsiba – as well as coalition partner the LCD party, are expected to support it.

Monyake and Litsiba have now officially formed an alliance with Mosisili's DC party, with another four parties that have turned their backs on Thabane.

Hundreds of Basotho thronged the Parliament building on Maseru's Mpilo Mountain to witness the passing of the motion last Monday, but were turned away because the motion was deemed not to be part of Parliament's business for that day.

Budget priority
Mochoboroane said later that the motion could not be passed immediately because a budget discussion had to be given priority in terms of Parliament's standing orders.

"The MPs who want to pass the motion of no confidence [in] the prime minister know very well that government business has to be given first priority, especially the budget business," Mochoboroane said.

He said the proposed motion will be dealt with at the end of April, after Parliament has discussed the 2014-2015 national budget.

Mochoboroane said the ABC, LCD and BNP parties still support Thabane as head of King Letsie III's government, but avoided answering why individual MPs could not vote against the parties.

Meanwhile, business was disrupted in the National Assembly on Thursday last week when opposition MPs sang the national anthem after the deputy speaker, Lekhetho Rakuoane, refused to allow the no-confidence motion to proceed.

Suspended MPs
Rakuoane suspended 15 opposition MPs for a day.

Out of six parties that had formed a bloc supporting the ruling tripartite coalition in Parliament, only two have remained loyal.

The home affairs minister, the BNP's Chief Joang Molapo, says he is confident that the motion will not pass.

"If a pig can fly, then the motion will pass," he said.

Mochoboroane said the motion of no confidence arose from an initiative to force public servants, including MPs and ministers, to declare their assets.

"It is obvious that these people do not want to declare their assets," Mochoboroane said.

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