Mapesela drags Speaker Motanyane to court

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…as Motanyane denies Members of parliament a right to use secret ballot vote in their attempt to oust Prime Minister Majoro.

By Itumeleng Koleile and Mamello Mosaefane

Tefo Mapesela, Mokhotlong Constituency legislator has petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare unconstitutional, null and void, a decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly Sephiri Motanyane that a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s government be decided by public vote.

Mapesela—leader Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP)— joined by Alliance of Democrats legislator Kose Makoa want the court to allow them to have their motion of no confidence decided by a secret ballot in line with section 75 (a) of the constitution of Lesotho.

The urgent application by Mapesela and Makoa is set to be heard tomorrow (September 16th).

The applicants’ motion of no confidence in the government of Lesotho was filed in terms of the constitution and Standing orders of the National Assembly was accepted by Motanyane and is due to be tabled before the House from any time the business committee of the house shall determine.

Thereafter a request for the vote of no confidence to be determined in a secret ballot was denied by Motanyane and instead directed that it shall be voted on publicly as members of the national assembly and Prime Minister are public functionaries and everything must be done in public.

In a certificate of urgency to the court, Advocate Katleho Nyabela said “the decision of the Speaker violates the rights of members of the house to determine questions before the house by secret ballot inn special circumstances which disable such members to exercise their free will and conscience due to threats and intimidations currently perpetrated by some political parties and prominent members of those political parties…against members of the house who support the motion”.

“The constitution of Lesotho, teleologically construed, clearly permits the voting by secret ballot by members of the house in special circumstances as herein obtaining. Applicants will not be afforded substantial relief should the motion of no confidence be called, debated and determined,” Nyabela added.

Nyabela pleaded the court to intervene urgently and prevent a violation of constitutional rights of Parliamentarians to uphold constitutional integrity and the maintenance of rule of law, the constitutional values violated and threatened by Motanyane’s decision.

In the interim, Mapesela and Makoa are asking the court grant them an interim relief order that shall operate with immediate effect until the finalization of their case that shall:

  • Interdict and restrain the business committee of the national assembly from “determining and giving notice as to the date on which the motion of no confidence … shall be tabled, debated and determined…”.
  • Interdict and restrain the Clerk of the National Assembly Advocate Fine Maema (King’s Counsel) from preparing an Order Paper that includes the motion for a vote of no confidence as business of the house.
  • Interdict and restrain the Speaker from presiding over the motion of no confidence.
  • Interdict and restrain Parliament from debating and determining the motion for a vote of no confidence.

In his founding affidavit, Mapesela emphasized need for a secret ballot on the vote of no confidence as members of parliament fear reprisals and retribution, arguing they would not be afforded substantial relief in due course at the hearing should the motion be debated and determined without intervention of the con court.

He argues that Majoro should be ousted because the government has become extremely non responsive to the needs of the people of Lesotho under his administration and, failed its accountability obligations and made decisions which clearly violated the constitution and the law.

“Dr Majoro’s government has sent troops of Basotho military men and women in deadly harm’s way in Mozambique without involving, informing, and reporting to the House and the Senate, and without even a pre or post address to inform the families of the military personnel and the nation about the necessity of such deployment and the protection of our military personnel,” he said.

“Men and women in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service have recently been killed and assassinated at an alarming rate and the government has failed to concretely decisively and meaningfully clamp down the criminal elements to address the issue,” he added.

Mapesela said Majoro’s government has instead resorted to forming a ministerial sub-committee, a move that bamboozled all and sundry how it will resolve killings of police officers.

Mapesela also accused Majoro’s government of “soft, kid-gloved treatment and approach to criminality” as well as killings of police officers and members of the public, with Lesotho earning a global status of being a leading homicide capital of the world.

He also showed concern over the controversial case of former Minister in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s Office Temeki Tšolo’s involvement in a M1.7 billion dubious tender awarded to Frazer Solar Company, that he said Majoro failed to act decisively on.

This, according to Mapesela is a sign that Majoro cannot reign ministers and hold them accountable.

“The Prime Minister instead established a worthless ineffective commission of enquiry which has not even started to function today,” said Mapesela.

In his argument for a secret ballot vote, Mapesela said some of the ruling All Basotho Convention members who wish to vote for the motion, privately disclosed to him that they fear reprisals from Majoro and his prominent supporters.

Furthermore, Mapesela points that some of the members of parliament have been given orders from their respective political parties not to support the motion, even though they wish to support it.

He said some of those members of parliament include member of parliament who jumped ship from ABC to join Professor Nqosa Mahao led Basotho Action Party.

In a press briefing, Basotho Action Party announced that it does not support the motion for a vote of no confidence instigated by Mapesela and Makoa against Prime Minister Majoro.

“There is need for secret ballot because the ABC and its National Executive Committee issued a stern warning against member of parliament for Qoaling constituency, Chalane Phori to desist from supporting the no confidence vote motion and to publicly speak in support of that motion as well as campaigning for the motion,” he said.

Democratic Congress, Movement for Economic Change, All Basotho Convention and Popular Front for Democracy have also, according to Mapesela issued an instruction to their members of parliament not to support the motion.

Mapesela also said he and Makoa have been lambasted and castigated by several members of ABC, DC and PFD on several radio stations for weeks for filling the motion for Majoro’s ouster.

He also added that they have been getting threats through call in programs by listeners and supporters of these political parties against him and members of parliament who would ever support the motion.

“Since I tabled the motion, I have received credible report and information from some members of state security who told me that I must be careful as there is instruction to harm or kill me for filing the motion.

“I believed the reports because immediately thereafter I realised certain vehicles following me constantly around town when I retired to my home and would normally park for long periods of time next to my gate,” he said.

These threats, according to him will affect the freedom of members to vote according to their conscience without any influence from their parties, and this will not reflect a truly democratic outcome of the members’ votes.

He therefore maintained that the secret ballot in this circumstance is necessary and the best voting mechanism to enhance the oversight role of members of parliament and to hold the government accountable.

Majoro succeeded former premier Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane in May 2020.