De­fence bud­get sparks chaos in parly

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

Par­lia­ment de­scended into chaos on tues­day soon af­ter De­fence and na­tional Se­cu­rity min­is­ter tšeliso mokhosi had started jus­ti­fy­ing why his min­istry’s m539 mil­lion bud­get pro­posal for 2015/16 should be ap­proved by the leg­is­la­tors.

mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (mps) from op­po­si­tion par­ties—all Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion, Ba­sotho na­tional Party and re­formed Congress of le­sotho—be­gan to jeer as the min­is­ter started to speak, re­sult­ing in heated ex­changes with their rul­ing coun­ter­parts from the Demo­cratic Congress, le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy, Pop­u­lar Front for Democ­racy, le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress, Ba­sotho Congress Party, mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party and na­tional in­de­pen­dent Party.

“the main task of this min­istry is to en­sure there is peace and se­cu­rity in le­sotho,” mr mokhosi told the House, spark­ing a walk­out of about one-third of the op­po­si­tion’s mps in protest.

How­ever, the min­is­ter con­tin­ued with his mo­ti­va­tion de­spite the ex­o­dus and in­ces­sant cat­calls from the re­main­ing op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors.

“We are pre­par­ing to make a rec­om­men­da­tion to this House on how we would like gov­ern­ment to ap­proach se­cu­rity af­fairs. this min­istry is made up of an ad­min­is­tra­tion depart­ment, le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) and na­tional Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (NSS),” said mr mokhosi, who was then in­ter­rupted by the mal­imong Con­stituency mp, leshoboro mohla­joa (ABC), with a point of or­der.

mr mohla­joa asked na­tional assem­bly Speaker, ntl­hoi mot­samai, who was act­ing as Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee chair­per­son, why gov­ern­ment mps were so ex­cited by the min­is­ter’s pre­sen­ta­tion.

“is the min­is­ter gen­uinely seek­ing ap­proval of the bud­get or is this noise com­ing from the gov­ern­ment side of the House about al­ready know­ing what this money is re­ally go­ing to be used for? We al­ready know what this money is go­ing to be used for.”

But mr mohla­joa’s in­ter­jec­tion prompted an an­gry re­ac­tion from the rul­ing party mps, with the Speaker try­ing, and fail­ing, to bring the House to or­der.

How­ever, the leg­is­la­tors even­tu­ally came un­der con­trol, al­low­ing min­is­ter mokhosi to con­tinue his bud­get ex­pla­na­tion.

“the ad­min­is­tra­tion depart­ment co­or­di­nates the army and the NSS, and also un­der­takes tasks such as pur­chas­ing equip­ment. the ldf’s main duty is the pro­tec­tion of le­sotho’s bound­aries, as well as en­sur­ing there is peace and sta­bil­ity in the coun­try. the LDF is cur­rently faced with the task of re­forms, which in­clude re­view­ing its ad­min­is­tra­tion, train­ing, ca­pac­ity-build­ing and VIP pro­tec­tion ser­vice.

“in the LDF, we also have the air Wing, which gives air-travel sup­port to the army and all the gov­ern­ment min­istries,” said mr mokhosi.

“the min­istry also has the NSS whose ma­jor task is to ad­vise gov­ern­ment with in­tel­li­gence over is­sues that would oth­er­wise destabi- lise the coun­try.

“my min­istry, there­fore, re­quests this par­lia­ment to ap­prove a bud­get of m539 349 534.00 to be shared as fol­lows: the ad­min­is­tra­tion depart­ment would get m18, 818,917.00; LDF have m337, 788, 185.00; air Wing take m86, 130, 886.00; makoanyane mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal get m20, 550, 068.00 and NSS have m76, 061,478.00,” said min­is­ter mokhosi.

moyeni Con­stituency mp, ma­hooana Khati, then sup­ported the min­is­ter’s re­quest and im­plored the rest of the House to do the same.

“i sec­ond that the min­is­ter be given the monies re­quested so that he can de­velop the LDF. We have learned that there are many chal­lenges in the LDF, par­tic­u­larly their equip­ment which is not in good con­di­tion. So the min­is­ter should be given the money he has re­quested so that le­sotho can buy mil­i­tary equip­ment of the same cal­i­bre as that of other coun­tries. We also wish to see the LDF in­tel­li­gence unit be­ing de­vel­oped to be of very high stan­dards,” said mr Khati.

as the House ap­proved the bud­get with a loud “YES” from the gov­ern­ment side, op­po­si­tion mps, who had since been re­duced in num­ber fol­low­ing the ear­lier walk­out, shouted “no” but to no avail. the Le­sotho Times edi­tion of June 18 2015, car­ried a story head­lined “Sehla­bathebe vil­lagers up in arms”.

the ar­ti­cle, which was about Sehla­bathebe vil­lagers com­plain­ing about lack of sup­port for their horse-leas­ing busi­ness, had sev­eral in­ac­cu­ra­cies, among which was that the man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Sehla­bathebe na­tional Park lodge, marotholi Khali, was try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with the vil­lagers to hire out the horses on a monthly ba­sis when they were no such plans.

the other inac­cu­racy was stat­ing that horses from lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties were al­lowed to graze in Sehla­bathebe na­tional Park when in fact the op­po­site was true as the park is a na­tional her­itage site which should never be dis­turbed.

We un­re­servedly re­tract the er­ro­neous quote and apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience it could have caused all the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers. — editor

Some of THE MPS Dur­ing A sit­ting of THE 9th Par­lia­ment. (file pic­ture)

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