MASERU – The no-confidence motion filed against government this week could fail because the nominee for premier, Samuel Rapapa, is not leader of a political party, if precedence is followed.
The motion was filed by All Basotho Convention (ABC) MP for the Koro-Koro constituency Motebang Koma and seconded by opposition Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa.
Koma is one of over 20 ABC MPs aligned to an anti-Thabane faction within the party, the so-called Likatana, which fiercely backs disputed Deputy Leader Professor Nqosa Mahao.
The motion is analogous to a putative 2012 no-confidence motion against former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
The motion was mooted by an alliance of opposition parties that wanted former Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary general Mothetjoa Metsing to take over the premiership.
However, the plot failed after former Speaker of the National Assembly at the time Ntlhoi Motsamai and then Leader of the House, former Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, ruled a prospective premier should be an MP.
The nominee also had to be leader of a political party or coalition of political parties commanding the majority in parliament.
Rapapa has declared his readiness to act as caretaker premier should the motion succeed.
Lehohla at the time announced that the motion contravened some sections of the constitution.
According to Lehohla, it was during consultations with Motsamai that the need for the nominee to be a party leader emerged.
“We had to consult with the authors of the motion to establish if Metsing was the leader of a party or at least a coalition of parties to be nominated as prime minister,” Lehohla said.
“We ascertained that Metsing was not a leader of any political opposition party or a coalition of opposition parties, a fact which stripped the motion of credibility.”
Lehohla also revealed that after news of the motion broke, he asked Metsing if he had given consent to be nominated but “he told me he knew nothing about it”.
The attempt to remove Mosisili was precipitated by internal squabbles in the LCD.
Lehohla told Public Eye yesterday current political events mirrored the 2012 saga, adding his stance had since slightly shifted because, the Sesotho version of the constitution “states that anyone” can be premier should a motion succeed.
But, the English version states the nominee should “the leader of a party or coalition of parties commanding a majority in the house”.
According to the veteran politician, the dominant question should be whether indeed a caretaker Prime Minister should be leader of a political party or coalition of parties, when the motion was made in the middle of the life of a parliament and “not when we are coming back from elections”.
“Obviously when we return from elections it is clear that there are political parties in parliament and that a premier should be derived from the one that commands majority seats,” Lehohla said.
“But, in this instance, we are talking about a person who has been nominated within and not outside parliament. We are talking about a parliamentary leader nominated by MPs. Should it necessarily be the leader of a political party? What should we have as proof that the person is the leader of a political party?
“If MPs in parliament could turn against their leader in parliament, how then do we determine that the nominated person is the new leader?”
Lehohla said it was imperative that the phrase “leader of a political party or coalition” be “unpacked in the true sense of the law”.
“For instance, the law should be specific to say, the leader referred to in the constitution should either be the parliamentary one or the one elected outside parliament by people at the grassroots. This issue needs to be properly unpacked, legally,” Lehohla said.
Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) Director Tsikoane Peshoane, said reports that Speaker of the National Assembly Sephiri Motanyane wants to block Rapapa’s nomination because he was not leader of a political party were disturbing.
Also, Motanyane allegedly believes Koma should cross the floor to the opposition because he could not mount a no-confidence vote against a political party of which he was MP.
However, Peshoane said Motanyane was introducing laws that do not exist.
“But Koma is not a member of cabinet. He’s just an ordinary MP. If he was a minister he would be asked to resign. This purported ruling by the Speaker is out of order.
“Where does it come from? The ABC was elected at the grassroots and Koma is part of that party,” Peshoane said.
“The premier is the product of parliament which endorsed him and will be removed by the same parliament when need arises. Thabane was not endorsed by people in the grassroots, but by MPs.”
On Rapapa, Peshoane noted that section 87 (2) of the constitution was not “exclusive to leaders of political parties” and that “it is misleading to say an ordinary MP does not qualify to become a premier”.
“Any member of the national assembly qualifies to be elected PM in parliament. There is no constitutional crisis here. It is being fabricated as a mere delaying tactic to avert the inevitable,” Peshoane said.