Graduates de­mand loans write-off

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

UN­EM­PLOYED graduates will take to the streets of Maseru next Fri­day in their aca­demic re­galia to de­mand that govern­ment writes off debts they in­curred while study­ing at var­i­ous ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try.

The graduates say the pro­ces­sion will be in protest over the writ­ing-off by the govern­ment of M43.54 mil­lion mem­bers of the Ninth Par­lia­ment owed when their term of of­fice pre­ma­turely ended in June this year.

Po­lice Spokesper­son, Mpiti Mopeli, con­firmed re­ceipt of the ap­pli­ca­tion for the march which will be­gin at the Maseru Race Course, via White City to Moshoeshoe I Mon­u­ment in Maseru.

The leg­is­la­tors qual­i­fied for M500 000 in­ter­est-free loans from Ned­bank Le­sotho as part of their ben­e­fits, and were sup­posed to re­pay the money over five years start­ing from March 2015.

The Ninth Par­lia­ment was elected dur- ing the 28 February 2015 snap elec­tions which also brought to power a sev­en­party coali­tion govern­ment led by former premier Pakalitha Mo­sisili.

The govern­ment un­der­wrote the loans and also paid in­ter­est on the leg­is­la­tors’ be­half.

How­ever, the leg­is­la­tors’ terms came to a pre­ma­ture end af­ter a 1 March 2017 par­lia­men­tary no-con­fi­dence vote on Dr Mo­sisili’s govern­ment prompted the hold­ing of snap polls on 3 June 2017.

The vote was spon­sored by Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion, Al­liance of Democrats, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and Re­formed Con­gress of Le­sotho who went on to form govern­ment af­ter the polls.

Prior to the no-con­fi­dence vote, Dr Mo­sisili had warned leg­is­la­tors that they would be sad­dled with huge loan debts to pay off with­out any govern­ment bail-out if they suc­ceeded in oust­ing his govern­ment.

How­ever, the leg­is­la­tors went on with the vote, hav­ing been re­as­sured that their loans would be paid off once a new govern­ment was elected.

Fol­low­ing the bailout, many civil so­ci­ety groups and ac­tivists ex­pressed out­rage over the move.

At­tor­ney Tu­misang Mosotho, who launched an on­line pe­ti­tion against the scheme in 2015, said Le­sotho could il­laf­ford to con­tinue with the scheme given its sta­tus as a least de­vel­oped coun­try.

One of the or­gan­is­ers of Fri­day’s pro­ces­sion, ’Makhoko Tši­ame, who grad­u­ated with a law de­gree in 2015, told the Sun­day Ex­press this past week that writ­ing off the MPs’ loans was highly dis­crim­i­na­tory and was tan­ta­mount to “tak­ing away from the poor and giv­ing lux­u­ries to the few who are al­ready priv­i­leged”.

“MPs con­sti­tute a small part of the pop­u­la­tion where most peo­ple are de­prived of the right to ed­u­ca­tion and work,” Ms Tši­ame said.

“We don’t care what clause the govern­ment uses to jus­tify its de­ci­sion to write off the MPs’ loans; the fact is that it’s wrong.

“The govern­ment must pri­ori­tise as­sis­tance to the youth this time around.”

Rama­hooana Mat­losa, a grad­u­ate and a co-founder of the Ma­jalefa Move­ment said the march aimed at pe­ti­tion­ing govern­ment to write off the debt of graduates, cre­ate 10 000 jobs and that par­lia­ment abol­ishes the law that gives MPs in­ter­est free loans.

An­other youth, Kananelo Se­boka, a jour­nal­ism grad­u­ate said he would join the march to protest un­em­ploy­ment and the al­leged mis­use of tax pay­ers’ funds.

“We are wor­ried about the mis­use of our taxes by par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. We are job­less and could do with projects to gen­er­ate in­come and im­prove our lives. We there­fore urge govern­ment to write off our debts as we are aware that this is very pos­si­ble.

“We urge the govern­ment to let MPs take loans like other Ba­sotho; there is noth­ing spe­cial about them. The govern­ment should also help youth with agri­cul­tural projects and stop im­port­ing veg­eta­bles from the neigh­bor­ing South Africa,” Mr Se­boka said.

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