Speaker asks for Thabane substitute
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.”