I’m not obliged to support govt: Defiant UFC MP



MASERU – A Member of Parliament (MP) from the United for Change (UFC), Mohlominyane Tota has publicly stated that he is not obligated to support the Government, despite pressure from his party’s leadership. He states that he has decided to “agree to disagree” with his party leader, ’Malichaba Lekhoaba, who pressured him to support government decisions in Parliament.

Instead, Tota was swayed by the opposition leaders to support their stance, and he is now unwilling to revert to his previous position. In his response contained in an affidavit, Tota addresses an application brought by the UFC and its leader to challenge the ruling by National Assembly Speaker Tlohang Sekhame. The ruling in question determined that Tota’s switching of seats in Parliament did not constitute floor crossing.

UFC has appealed to the Court of Disputed Returns to review Sekhame’s decision, made on April 3. They seek a ruling that Tota’s change of seat was indeed a case of floor-crossing, which would render his parliamentary seat vacant. This legal move marks the UFC’s second attempt in the Court of Disputed Returns to challenge the Speaker’s ruling as another case is still pending.

Initially, UFC had sought to have Tota’s seat change deemed floor-crossing. However, following the Speaker’s ruling that it did not meet the criteria for floor-crossing, they are now requesting a review of this decision. Tota changed his seat on February 19, after receiving approval from Sekhamane. He had previously informed the Speaker of his intent to switch seats, citing the government’s non co-operation.

He also cited a personal conversation with Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane, who indicated that the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) had already formed a coalition with other political parties and could not accommodate the UFC. “I then told the Prime Minister that acting on behalf of the first petitioner would support the government as long as they conducted public affairs properly and to the highest standards of public governance.”

He explains that he opted to sit in a neutral position on the crossbench in Parliament after being persuaded by the opposition to change seats and support them. However, Tota maintains that this action did not constitute crossing the floor. “I did not for a moment suggest that I was crossing the floor because I have always been clear that a member holding a proportional representation seat cannot cross the floor.”

However, UFC leader, Lekhoaba has a different opinion. In her court filings, she argues that by changing seats, Tota has abandoned the UFC’s mandate and must therefore vacate his parliamentary seat. The party contends that it is crucial for the proper functioning of democracy, as outlined in the National Assembly Act, the Electoral Act of 2011, and the Constitution of Lesotho, for the court to determine whether, based on the facts, MP Tota’s seat has indeed become vacant.

They seek a review and reversal of the National Assembly Speaker’s ruling that Tota’s seat change did not constitute floor-crossing. Lekhoaba asserts that Tota breached the agreement between the UFC and the ruling party, under which the UFC was to support the government “for all intents and purposes.” According to Lekhoaba, the legal conclusion from Tota’s actions is that he has crossed the floor, thereby creating a vacancy in his parliamentary seat as per the Electoral Act.

“As a result, the Speaker of the National Assembly is bound, in terms of sections 189(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act of 2011, to fill up his vacancy by appointing the person who is next in line of preference from the party’s list. According to the party’s list, the next eligible candidate is Lisebo Mositsi. The UFC leaders argue that any seat change from the government to the opposition or vice versa legally constitutes floor-crossing, prompting them to seek a court declaration to this effect.

Lekhoaba contends that by changing seats, Tota breached the party’s commitment to both itself and its voters. This commitment involved an agreement with the government pledging UFC’s support. “As a result, all the party’s proportional representation seats, including mine, are still bound to support the government,” she states. However, Tota counters that Lekhoaba is going against the UFC’s National Executive Committee, which endorsed his support for the opposition.

He also claims that after the party’s poor performance in the last general elections, Lekhoaba lost interest in the party and even took a job in the United States. He suggests that her renewed interest was sparked only after the party secured additional seats through a court application by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that corrected a previous mistake in the allocation of seats.

“It is important to indicate that immediately after the national elections in 2022 and following the expression of frustrated sentiments, the second petitioner took up employment as a journalist in the United States of America, and we remained with the party.”

Tota adds: “Immediately after the first petitioner got reallocated a seat in the national assembly, the second petitioner started to demonstrate keen interest in the affairs of the UFC. “She started to inform me and direct me on how I should conduct myself as a Member of Parliament representing the first petitioner. She made it clear that I must support and work with the government.”

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