PENSION DEDUCTIONS BACKFIRE ON GOVT
FORMER Senate President Letapata Makhaola, his deputy ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi and former National Assembly speaker Sephiri Motanyane, will be reimbursed M164 486.22 , M160 141.97, and M192 929.13 respectively that government deducted from their gratuities to settle loans they had taken from a local bank.
The Constitutional Court yesterday ruled the money should be refunded because the deductions were discriminatory as they did not apply to other members of the eighth Parliament.
Government in May this year ordered the payment of gratuities to all members of the eighth Parliament without making any deductions to settle their loans.
However, the directive, which was made to the Specified Officers Defined Contribution Pension Fund, did not include Mr Makhaola, Ms Mokitimi and Mr Motanyane.
The trio on 30 October filed an urgent application before the Constitutional Court after the Fund had docked their gratuities.
Their complaint was they had been discriminated against as the other parliamentarians who benefited from the same loan scheme did not suffer a similar fate.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court yesterday noted: “The deductions for loans taken under the Members of Parliament Loan Scheme during the 8th Parliament are declared discriminatory and in contravention of Sections 18 of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993.
“The respondents are ordered to refund the amount deducted from the said gratuities of the applicants.”
The respondents are the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Specified Officers Refined Contribution Pension Fund and Attorney General.
In his affidavit on behalf of his fellow applicants, Chief Makhaola outlined the background of the case.
“In February 2015, general elections were held in Lesotho before the expiry of the usual five years of the life of the 8th Parliament which commenced in 2012.
“Subsequently, in May 2015, the new government, through the Ministry of Finance, instructed the 3rd respondent (Pen- sion Fund) that gratuities of honourable members of the eighth Parliament be paid without deductions pertaining to their loans taken under the Members of Parliament Loan Scheme.
“In the meantime, the gratuities of the applicants were not paid until September 2015 after they had written letters of demand.”
The chief further stated they were surprised to discover that the outstanding loans had been deducted when the gratuities were eventually paid.
“The applicants then wrote letters inquiring about the reasons for the deductions.
“The response from the Pension Fund was as follows, and I quote:
‘You may recall that I mentioned that I had sought clarification from the same office to define a member of the 8th Parliament. In response it was made clear that the office of the President of senate was not covered in the definition, hence the deduction,’ end of quote.
“The other applicants also received similar letters stating that the office of Speaker of the National Assembly and vice-president of Senate respectively, were not covered in the definition,” he wrote in the affidavit.
However, the Constitutional Court yesterday ruled the applicants should be treated like parliamentarians and also benefit from government’s decision to settle the loans on their behalf.
The case was before Justices Molefi Makara and Sakoane Peter Sakoane.
Former Senate President Letapata makhaola.
Former National Assembly Speaker Sephiri motanyane.