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Lesotho PM Refuses to Re-open Parliament

South African President Jacob Zuma (L), Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (2nd L), Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane (C) and Botswana President Ian Khama (2nd R) stand for a group photo following an emergency meeting Lesotho in Pretoria Sept. 15, 2014.

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane will not re-open parliament as demanded by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), until a renegade army general is arrested and made to face justice, according to Thabo Thakalekoala, spokesperson for the prime minister.

Regional bloc SADC issued a communique after an emergency meeting Tuesday, demanding Thabane immediately open parliament in an effort to end political tensions, following sharp disagreement in the country’s first coalition government.

Re-opening of Lesotho’s parliament, SADC says, will enable the democratic process to progress. But, Thakalekoala says it is unlikely the prime minister will advise the king, who is head of state as well as the head of parliament, to re-open the legislature anytime soon.

“The prime minister cannot advise the king… to open parliament in view of the uncertain security situation prevailing in the country right now. The argument of the prime minister is that until the renegade general is brought to book, there is no way that parliament can be re-opened. The prime minister is insistent and adamant that we cannot open parliament until the security situation is brought under control,” said Thakalekoala.

“Before we re-open parliament leaders of all political parties in Lesotho have to sit down together, [they] have to agree on the agenda that the parliament will follow when it is reopened,” said Thakalekoala. “But, unfortunately, some leaders are not prepared to do that. So, right now, we are in a quagmire, we don’t know what will happen.”

The disagreement in the government led to an alleged attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Thabane’s administration.

Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, a former commander of the army, is accused of staging the alleged attempt to overthrow the coalition government. He is also suspected of having stolen weapons from Lesotho army's armory. He is denying both charges.

Talk of power grab

Rival parties in the coalition government have accused Thabane of a power grab after he suspended parliament allegedly to avoid a vote of no confidence.

SADC has recommended that elections be held earlier than originally scheduled, in 2017.

Thakalekoala says the prime minister welcomes the regional bloc’s recommendation for early elections. He contends that snap elections could help end the stalemate in the government which he says has heightened tension in the country.

“Dr. Thabane proposed to SADC that they should be bring the date of elections forward …Now apparently, some members in the coalition government [are] not happy with that. But, SADC still recommends we should bring the date of the elections forward. We should not hold elections in 2017 and the prime minister is in full agreement [with] that,” said Thakalekoala.

Critics in the coalition government say the prime minister is to blame for the country’s instability after suspending parliament and refusing all attempts by SADC to re-open the lawmaking body to end the political stalemate. They argue that Thabane has so far reneged on his promise to senior officials of the regional bloc to re-open the legislature.

They also said his refusal to open parliament perpetuates the country’s instability. Thakalekoala disagreed, saying Thabane has the constitutional right to suspend legislature.

“The prime minister did not in any way act illegally when he prorogated parliament. It is within the right of the prime minister to make sure that he brings stability in government [and] the whole country,” said Thakalekoala. “One of the mechanisms that he can use when he realizes that his government is at stake is to prorogate or suspend parliament and that is not challengeable in any court of law in this land.

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