MPs face heavy penalties

MPs face heavy penalties

MASERU-THE Speaker of Parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, says MPs who were involved in the bloody fist fight in Parliament last week are set to be hauled over the coals.
“Everyone has to account for his or her actions,” Motanyane said, adding that “the incident tarnished Lesotho’s image”.
Motanyane said Parliament will use two parallel processes to bring the culprits to book.

The first is that he will refer the matter to Parliament’s ethics and privileges committee to investigate. That process could result in more than a dozen MPs being suspended.
The second is that he will ask the police to investigate the case with a view to bring criminal charges against those involved.
“Parliament was turned into a scene of crime and therefore the police will be roped in to investigate the circumstances that led to the blood spillage and vandalism of property,” Motanyane said.
He said what happened in Parliament “amounts to crime and therefore investigations will be launched to make those involved face the wrath of the law”.
This is the first time that there could be a mass suspension of MPs.

Last year Democratic Congress (DC) MP Likeleli Tampane was suspended after she was ruled to have “disrupted and impeded (parliamentary) proceedings by being a polarising figure that led to the gross disorderliness that prevailed in the House”.
Her initial suspension was for ten months but the ethics committee slashed it to five months on review.
Tampane has challenged the decision in the High Court but a judgement is yet to be delivered.
Given the gravity of what happened last Thursday it is arguable that several MPs could face lengthy suspensions. Some MPs have speculated that some of their colleagues involved in the fight could be out of Parliament for nearly a year.

Others said it could be just months.
“If Tampane could be suspended for five months for just being belligerent then you can imagine what will happen to those involved in a fist fight,” said one MP.
Yesterday Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, an MP, became the chairperson of the ethics committee that will investigate the matter.
He told thepost that this is likely to be a “complex case” because of the number of MPs involved.
But the main challenge, Adv Rakuoane said, is that Parliament doesn’t have a code of conduct.

“We are likely to use common law and precedents but the ideal situation is that there has to be a code of conduct,” he said.
He said getting to the bottom of what really happened is likely to be difficult given the chaos that ensued.
“How do you tell who was attacking and who was defending? Eventually we will have to get to the truth but it will be a complex matter,” he said.
His committee is also likely to rely on CCTV cameras.

Adv Rakuoane said he foresees the police also having a tough time investigating the matter.
“This is going to be a complex matter. Its unprecedented because there were so many MPs involved in the fight.”
“In past incidents it was just one or two MPs involved. In other cases it was clear who was in a scuffle and who was trying to stop it but this was a free for all.”
Suspension could have serious political implications for both the government and opposition.

Whichever side loses more members will have their hand significantly weakened when the battle over the no-confidence vote starts.
Already there is massive horse-trading behind the scenes but the margins are thin.
Just a small shift in allegiances could make or break the government.

Last Thursday’s parliamentary session descended into chaos with MPs from both the government coalition and opposition exchanging blows.
Some MPs used wooden bins and books as weapons in a brawl that was captured on a short video clip that has been widely distributed on social media.
Two MPs sustained injuries and spent a night at Makoanyane Military Hospital. Another was treated as an outpatient. Desks, chairs and bins were destroyed.
The fight broke out during a heated debate over the new controversial wool and mohair regulations that some MPs felt were strikingly too similar to those a parliamentary committee said should be changed immediately.

Some MPs, especially from the opposition, accused the government of rehashing the same old regulations and passing them as new without including the committee’s recommendations.
Meanwhile the opposition’s motion to lift the suspension of two MPs failed to pass yesterday.
The motion was filed by Qalabane MP Motlalentoa Letsosa who asked the House to review and set aside Deputy Speaker Teboho Lehloenya’s ruling to suspend Serialong Qoo and Tampane for their alleged involvement in the fracas last week.

Letsosa argued their suspension was unlawful because it had not been done through a motion as stipulated in the rules.
The Speaker agreed that his deputy had made a mistake but he put still put the motion to a vote to confirm if the two MPs should return to Parliament.
Out of the 77 MPs present in the House, 44 government lawmakers voted against lifting the suspension.

Thooe Ramolibeli/ Majara Molupe

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