Plot to oust Thabane

Plot to oust Thabane

MASERU – DARK clouds are hanging over Prime Minister Thomas Thabane as some All Basotho Convention (ABC) MPs plot his ouster.
The plot is to topple Thabane through a no-confidence motion in Parliament.
But before bringing that motion the MPs want to make drastic changes to the rules of the game to pave way for his smooth ouster.

thepost has been told that the first phase of the strategy is to amend the constitution so that the Prime Minister does not have the option to advise the King to call an election after losing the vote-of-no-confidence.
Targeted for amendment is Section 83 (4) (b) of the constitution.
It says: “if the National Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the Government of Lesotho and the Prime Minister does not within three days thereafter either resign or advise dissolution the King may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve Parliament”.
In simple terms the section gives the Prime Minister three options, two of which lead to an election.

The first is that he can resign.
The second is that he can advise the King to call an election. The third is that he can remain silent and force the King’s hand to call an election.
The MPs want that changed so that resignation is the only option available to the Prime Minister after losing a no-confidence vote.

In the context of Thabane the idea is that if he loses the vote he cannot fall with the whole government and the MPs.
That way the MPs will be able to push him out without risking losing their jobs and benefits by having to seek a new mandate from voters.
That way they don’t face the public’s wrath that comes with the government having to settle their interest free loans every time their term ends prematurely.
By changing the wording of the clause the MPs would have effectively stopped the tradition of Prime Ministers calling early elections when they lose control of Parliament.

In 2014 Thabane prorogued Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.
He later opened it after local and regional pressure but advised the King to dissolve Parliament and call a fresh election before he faced a no-confidence vote.
Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili used the same clause in 2017 but lost the subsequent election.
thepost is aware that the motion was initially submitted by Sam Rapapa on March 4 but he was advised that he had not followed proper procedures.
He was told that he had to apply for permission from Parliament to bring the motion.
Rapapa, who is chairman of the new ABC committee, confirmed that he initially proposed the motion.
He said as he was preparing to apply to seek permission Parliament told him that another MP was already seeking leave to bring the motion.

“They told me that someone had already requested permission to bring the same motion,” Rapapa said last night.
The MP for Mosalemane said the motive of the motion is to stop Prime Ministers from hiding behind snap elections when they fall out with Parliament.
“That means we will have our election after every five years, not this mid-term thing we have been having,” Rapapa said.

But an amendment to section 83 (4) (b) requires a two thirds majority.
That means ABC MPs pushing the motion will have to mobilise numbers from opposition MPs who obviously know that the amendment might come back to bite them in future.
The second phase of the plot to push out Thabane seems to be a proposed motion to amend Parliament’s Standing Order number 111.

Also submitted by Rapapa, the amended clause seeks to make it clear that when there is a no-confidence vote motion MPs shall vote through a secret ballot.
In its current wording the order is unclear whether MPs vote by voice or secret ballot.
Rapapa said the objective is to make an MP’s vote a secret so that they don’t fear retribution from the government, the party or the Prime Minister.

That means if Thabane does face a vote-of-no-confidence even his ministers and other MPs close to him might support it without fear of nasty comebacks.
Rapapa says both motions have nothing to do with what some see as a looming no-confidence vote against Thabane.
“It’s not a precursor for anything. There are already reforms to amend the constitution so some have just said lets amend this section now,” he said of the proposed constitutional amendment.
In reference to the motion to change Standing Order 111 he said: “We are just amending our parliamentary rules to make them better”.
Yet the timing of the motions could not have been more ominous. They come at a time when the ABC is wobbling because of power battles.

On Monday the High Court will start hearing a case in which members of the old national executive committee are disputing the result of the election they lost in February.
This after a negotiation ordered by the court collapsed this week, allegedly due to lack of commitment from the faction aligned to the old committee and reportedly in Thabane’s corner.
In the court order acting Chief Justice Maseforo Mahase committed herself to deliver judgement on March 29.
At the core of the case is the allegation that the number of ballots cast is higher than the number of delegates at the elective conference.

This, according to the losing candidates, means that the election was rigged.
But the new committee led by Professor Nqosa Mahao, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho, dismissed these claims and says the number of votes tallies with the number of delegates.
Prof Mahao’s camp views the lawsuit as an attempt by the old committee to subvert the will of the ABC supporters.
The old committee says it has the right to seek the court’s intervention.

Staff Reporter

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