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Lesotho PM Thabane’s decision to suspend parliament over lockdown challenged

Prime Minister Tom Thabane cited the fight against COVID-19 as the reason when he issued a gazette, which was not approved by King Letsie III.

In this file photo taken on 31 May 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Prime Minister Tom Thabane gives an interview to Agence France-Presse at his residence in Maseru. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Lesotho is on lockdown but the country’s Constitutional Court sat on Tuesday to hear a case in which Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s decision to suspend parliament was challenged.

Thabane cited the fight against COVID-19 as the reason when he issued a gazette, which was not approved by King Letsie III.

But his party, the All Basotho Convention’s national executive committee, and Members of Parliament, coalition partners, and the opposition said the decision was both unprocedural and unconstitutional.

Thabane’s reason that parliament should be suspended to contain the coronavirus was being questioned in the Constitutional Court as advocate Christopher Lephuthing argued.

“The future role of parliament in the fight is not known. It is very unwise to close parliament so prematurely,” he argued.

The opposition, represented by advocate Letuka Molati, joined the application.

“And my clients are saying, as people who are parliamentarians and the party perspective, they’re the main opposition party [and] this prorogation is improper,” Molati said.

Judge Sakoane Sakoane cornered advocate Motiea Teele, who is representing Thabane and argued that there was nothing amiss about suspending parliament for three months when the general lockdown was only 21 days.

“So, to contain the virus in relation to parliament we have to close it for three months? Whereas other institutions of the state, even private businesses, were not going to be closed down for such a long time?” Sakoane asked.

Teele responded: “Yes.”

The court reserved judgment.

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