’Maseribane breaks ranks

’Maseribane breaks ranks

MASERU-King Letsie III has been asked to fire Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for proroguing Parliament behind his back.
The request is contained in an explosive urgent application that was filed by the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ’Maseribane on Sunday.
’Maseribane accused Thabane and Monyane Moleleki, the deputy Prime Minister, of lying to the King when Thabane prorogued Parliament through a Legal Notice No. 21 of 2020 last Friday.
In an affidavit that he deposed to the Constitutional Court, ’Maseribane said he got a call from the Government Secretary inviting him to a meeting whose agenda he did not know at the Royal Palace.

At the palace he found the former ABC secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele who is also Water Affairs Minister, in the company of Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo.
“I learnt for the first time about the issue of prorogation when myself, Hon Keketso Rantšo, Hon Monyane Moleleki…and the Outgoing Prime Minister…were at the Royal Palace before His Majesty the King,” ’Maseribane said.

“The manner in which the whole process unravelled was both swift and hasty and it was quite evident that the Deputy Prime Minister…and the Outgoing Prime Minister…were at one and had agreed on the initiative,” he said.

’Maseribane said he and Rantšo protested and told the King that they were not party to the decision.
He said he told the King that the government did not yet understand the coronavirus to take such a drastic action.
“The future role of Parliament in the fight is not known. It is very unwise to close Parliament so prematurely,” he said.

He said the King “echoed his misgivings about the tone expressing an ultimatum to the effect that he must make decision by (9 pm)”.
“He stated that he had a warm working relationship with the Outgoing Prime Minister and there had never been a time when he did not create a platform for dialogue and for him to be given such a limited period of time on such an issue of grave national importance was clearly uncalled for,” ’Maseribane said.
He said Thabane “openly apologised for the manner in which the letter had been crafted and even stated that he was not the author of the document”.

The King, he said, “stated that it would seem that there was no engagement between the coalition partners and for that reason the parties must regroup and engage on the issue”.
’Maseribane said they parted ways on the understanding that the coalition partners would engage each other on the prorogation issue, which he said “was evidently aborted”.
“I was then met with shock and utter dismay when I learnt of the impugned gazette which purports to have been dated 20th March 2020,” he said, referring to Legal Notice No. 21 of 2020.
“The document is a product of deception of His Majesty the King,” he said.

“I hold the strong view that this was clearly unconstitutional and unwarranted and deserves censure of this Honourable Court.”
Prime Minister Thabane is said to have told the King that he wanted Parliament prorogued as a means to protect MPs and senators from contracting the deadly coronavirus.
The ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, who is also Thabane’s son-in-law, told the court in an affidavit that Thabane “unilaterally endeavoured to prorogue Parliament and the meeting with His Majesty the King was nothing but a façade or smokescreen aimed at paying lip service to the constitutional requirement”.

“There was no comprehensive report presented to His Majesty the King apart from the letter which outlines the extent to which the outbreak of coronavirus would affect the business of Parliament,” Hlaele said.
“What is even outrageous to say the least is the fact that the worst-hit jurisdictions like China, Italy, Spain, Iran and USA have not prorogued Parliament or silenced the representatives of the ordinary masses (legislators) on account of this outbreak,” he said.

“What is actually happening is that parliaments in varying jurisdictions are busy legislating and allocating budgets and resources are being mobilised to fight the scourge.”
He complained that Thabane gave the King only two hours “to consider such as issue of grave national importance”.
The court papers reveal that when the King met other coalition partners, ’Maseribane and Rantšo together with Thabane and Moleleki he declined to sign the prorogation document saying they should talk about it first after learning that they were not in agreement.

That very same evening the Legal Notice No. 21 of 2020 was issued, effectively proroguing Parliament until June 19.
Hlaele argued that the prorogation is “effectively leading to a practical shutdown of government in circumstances which are highly suspect and which undermine the supremacy of our constitutional democracy”.

He said parliamentary committees are rendered dysfunctional and precluded from formally convening and deliberating on the very effects and preventative measures against the global outbreak of coronavirus which is purported to be the underlying factor behind the prorogation.
He suggested that the motive behind the prorogation is to frustrate the pending motion-of-no-confidence against Thabane.

He said there is an apparent collusion between Thabane and Moleleki “to defeat accountability and to avoid legitimate constitutional processes aimed at removing them from power prematurely”.
He said Moleleki stands to lose his statutory benefits as a former deputy prime minister, adding that the prorogation period ends conveniently when Moleleki qualifies for a pension.
He also suggested that Thabane wants to thwart prosecution processes against him and First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane for the murder of his second wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

“He raised a defence before the remanding court stating that a sitting Prime Minister could not and cannot be prosecuted criminally irrespective of how heinous the crime of which he is charged is,” Hlaele said.

He also said Thabane and Moleleki have tried to poach opposition party leaders who are implicated in treason, Selibe Mochoboroane of the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and Mothetjoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
Hlaele said Thabane is trying to hold on to power despite the charges against him so that he can dismiss Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli who has dragged him to court for murder.
He said Thabane also wants to appoint the Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase a substantive Chief Justice despite the fact that the issue of her fitness to hold office is yet to be determined by the courts.

“I hold the strong position that her appointment involves a gross violation of judicial independence and the rule of law,” Hlaele said.
Justice Mahase has come under a barrage of criticism for granting First Lady ’Maesaiah bail under shadowy circumstances.
Hlaele also implied that Thabane wants to pursue his dream to fire the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kananelo Mosito.

Staff Reporter

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