Speaker asks for Tha­bane sub­sti­tute

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote ’Marafaele Mohloboli

A GROUP of “con­cerned cit­i­zens” told the Se­nate Pe­ti­tion Com­mit­tee this week that the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to pay off M32 mil­lion mem­bers of the Eighth Par­lia­ment owed a lo­cal bank was “in­ex­cus­able” and that the money should be re­paid.

The M32 mil­lion em­anated from the M500 000 in­ter­est-free loans the leg­is­la­tors were en­ti­tled to as part of their ben­e­fits and sup­posed to re­pay over five years. The govern­ment un­der­wrote the loans and also paid in­ter­est on be­half of the MPS.

How­ever, af­ter their term of of­fice pre­ma­turely ended fol­low­ing the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap polls, the MPS re­quested govern­ment to write off the debt, ar­gu­ing they no longer had an in­come to ser­vice the loans.

The Min­istry of Fi­nance then paid M32, 229, 284.92 mil­lion to First Na­tional Bank on 27 April 2015, and in­vited in­di­vid­ual MPS to dis­cuss how they would re­pay govern­ment the money be­fore aban­don­ing the ex­er­cise.

Fol­low­ing the bailout, many civil so­ci­ety groups and political party youth leagues ex­pressed out­rage over the move, de­scrib­ing the MPS’ loan scheme as “le­galised cor­rup­tion by the elite”.

The nine con­cerned cit­i­zens ap­peared NA­TIONAL As­sem­bly Speaker, Ntl­hoi Mot­samai (pic­tured), has re­quested the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) to nom­i­nate one of its Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) to stand in for ex­iled party leader Thomas Tha­bane as the Of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in the au­gust house.

Dr Tha­bane, his Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) coun­ter­parts Th­e­sele ‘ Maserib­ane and Keketso Ran­tšo sought refuge in South Africa on 11, 13 and 26 May 2015 re­spec­tively, claim­ing there was a plot to kill them hatched by Le­sotho De­fence Force mem­bers. The govern­ment has since de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion al­though the for­mer premier has in­sisted he would only re­turn to Le­sotho un­der SADC guard.

In a let­ter dated 17 Fe­bru­ary 2016, copied to ABC deputy leader Tlali Khasu, chief whip Mot­lohi Maliehe and cau­cus chair­per­son Ma­joro Mo­hapi, Ms Mot­samai asks for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion to fill the “ap­par­ent vac­uum”.

Dr Tha­bane as­sumed the po­si­tion of Of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion af­ter his party won 46 of the 120 seats in the leg­is­la­ture dur­ing the 28 Fe­bru­ary polls, while the BNP won seven seats and the RCL two.

Reads part of the cor­re­spon­dence: “Hav­ing noted and ob­served the ab­sence of the Of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in the House…. it is im­per­a­tive to ad­dress this is­sue in con­g­ni­sance of the ap­par­ent vac­uum.

“The is­sue of the op­po­si­tion’s lead­er­ship in the House is usu­ally raised when it comes to spe- cific com­mu­ni­ca­tion that my of­fice needs to con­vey on of­fi­cial mat­ters. I, there­fore, re­quest your party’s con­sid­er­a­tion to com­mu­ni­cate a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in the House.”

Ms Mot­samai also sought “clar­ity” from Mr Nt­sekele on the sta­tus of the ABC’S Mos­ale­mane Con­stituency No 19 MP, Sam Ra­papa, in the House.

“The se­cond is­sue that I wish to be clar­i­fied is that, on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, I have re­ceived com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the Hon­or­able Mem­ber of Mos­ale­mane No19, Hon ST Ra­papa pur­port­ing to rep­re­sent Honourable Mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion,” Ms Mot­samai writes.

“I have al­ways won­dered what his sta­tus is be­cause I have never re­ceived any cor­re­spon­dence on his sta­tus in the House apart from rep­re­sent­ing his con­stituency.”

Con­tacted for com­ment, Mr Nt­sekele con­firmed re­ceiv­ing the let- ter, say­ing: “I re­ceived the let­ter but have not yet for­warded it to the leader (Dr Tha­bane).

“How­ever, he knows about it and, as you can see, this is a sen­si­tive mat­ter that needs to be treated with cau­tion. The party’s lead­er­ship is yet to deal with it and I don’t even know how soon that will be. That’s all I can say for now.”

On his part, Mr Ra­papa said: “I don’t think it’s fair for Madam Speaker to say that ‘on sev­eral oc­ca­sions’ I com­mu­ni­cated to her. I have com­mu­ni­cated with the House in line with the rules and stand­ing or­ders that pro­vide that any MP is at lib­erty to raise an is­sue which he or she be­lieves to be of ut­most im­por­tance and needs to be ad­dressed speed­ily.

“And that I did on 5 Novem­ber 2015 in the House. Other than that, I have not had any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with her and I am fail­ing to un­der­stand what she is re­fer­ring to here.”

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