By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU- Amidst an ongoing court case challenging the proposed business of the house, the National Assembly was forced to take a temporary recess yesterday.
The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) who is also a Leader of the House and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Justice Nthomeng Majara moved that the house be adjourned until August 22.
She said this is to allow the court case in which the parliament is involved to proceed.
Section 41 (2) of the Standing Orders, says “When a motion that the debate be adjourned has been agreed to, the debate on the question then before the House shall be adjourned…”.
Last week, Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho, and prominent activist journalist Kananelo Boloetse being first to third applicants respectively approached the court to interdict the business that the parliament will be transacting during its special meeting.
The respondents are the Speaker of the National Assembly, the President of Senate, the Clerk of the National Assembly, the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, the Senate, the National Assembly, His Majesty King Letsie III, and Attorney General are first to eighth respondents respectively.
The parliament was convened on August 14, to address the 11th Amendment to the Constitution, famously known as the Omnibus Bill.
This court case attempts for the stay of the Omnibus Bill that collapsed in the 10th parliament following a challenge by Boletsoe and Advocate Lintle Tuke.
It should be recalled that in 2022, the Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro declared State of Emergency on August 16 paving a way to recall of parliament on August 23 to pass the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, and Electoral Amendment Act Bill, and following this, Kananelo Boloetse and Advocate Lintle Tuke petitioned the Constitutional Court to reverse this decision, which it declared that recall as “unconstitutional” and later the Appeal Court also upheld that judgment.
The judgment also translated into collapse of all the business that the parliament had transacted during its recall under the ‘State of Emergency’ purview.
Amongst their prayers, the petitioners want the court to declare as null and void the reinstatement of the bill as they argue that resuscitating it will be a violation of the section 78 of the Constitution.
They seek “A declaratory that the resolution of the 10th Parliament on the 14th June, 2022 had the legal effect of disintegrating irretrievably (not preserving) all pending Parliamentary businesses and Bills.
“Hence, 10th Parliament cannot Constitutionally “consider” or “resurrect” all such Bills (including the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2022) and carry them over on the, 14th, August 2023 at 2:30pm and/or any time thereof.”
There are also concerns about the Omnibus Bill as the purported one to be addressed is the expunged one with 76 pages whereas the original one from the now defunct National Reforms Authority (NRA) has 167 pages. There are many sections pulled out of the Bill, an issue that raised eyebrows as the short version does not represent Basotho wishes and aspirations for the Lesotho ‘we want as’ enshrined on in the Reforms.
When the case was supposed to be heard on Tuesday, the parliament was only filling its opposing papers. And the applicants were given two days to respond to them by tomorrow.
Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane is also expected to brief the 43rd Ordinary SADC Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Luanda, Angola.
Meanwhile the matter has been stood down to this Friday, August 18th.