…as Maqelepo throws fellow MPs under the bus
The former Minister of Health and Forestry, Motlatsi Maqelepo threw cold water to the infamous M5000 fuel allowances for Members of Parliament (MP) this week at the National Parliament citing poor economy and wrong timing.
This come after the enraged and concerned youths lobbied the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster to revoke the Members of Parliament salaries (amendment of schedule) Regulations, 2020.
Although the majority of the house sang with a sarcastic tune to adopt the report, most of them indicated that the report that seeks inter alia, to establish an Independent Parliamentary Commission (IPC) that would shepherd and monitor the salaries of MPs will instead increase the benefits of the MPs as well as their salaries as they are earning lower than most of the government officials in the country.
The chairperson of the committee Lehloka Hlalele stated that they were encouraged by the concerned youths to advice the house to withdraw the regulation formulating the M5000 allowances and form an Independent Parliamentary Commission that would negate the MPs from taking the money from the government’s purse.
“The committee received a petition from the office of honourable speaker, on September 22 this year we invited the concerned youths in regard to the salaries of parliament members.
“They stated that the house should withdraw those regulations aligning themselves with the economy and the current reigning Covid-19. So the regulations giving members of parliament M5000 fuel allowances, they point out that this was done at a wrong time when the economy is shaking.
“They advise that the house should great the regulation in order to form an Independent Parliamentary Commission that will monitor the salaries of members of parliament and Senior government officials and stop the parliaments from feeding themselves from the government’s purse,” he said.
He continued that the committee listened to their concerns and made a decision looking at the great confusion that has emerged amidst the public. He said the matter was not only seen after the petition but was also discussed in the reforms by the National Reforms Authority (NRA) where some of the public’s opinion was that the MPs should not earn salary but only allowances.
“We looked closely at this matter and learned that it is bigger than one can think and the committee adopted this issue to work toward its solution by creating an Independent Parliamentary Commission which will work on this issue so that it can be laid to rest and also so that both parties are satisfied,” he said.
“Our belief is that when the matter has been solved before the commission then the public will be satisfied. The commission will also be working toward MPs’ salary structures,” he said.
Maqelepo indicated that if possible he would return the money back citing that the timing is incorrect while the economy of the country is shuddering.
“I don’t want to disassociate myself with the decision that the parliament made to put these allowances into motion but right now I have a different view on this matter. It is one of the most unfortunate things that happened looking at the time it happened and the complications brought by Covid-19 on the economy of the country where most people lost their jobs,” Maqelepo said.
“As per our twitching economy, we are not at the point where we can compare ourselves with other countries. As MPs we are more challenged by the needs and expectations we get from our respective constituencies. Since the nation entrust us to change their lives, we have to do all in our power to change their lives, we don’t help to monitor the government money that it serves what it was intended to do, which is helping the nation.
“MPs are bitter when we compare ourselves with our counterparts in other countries, we are left behind. There has to be a holistic solution, for example; you are MPs and you appoint a Prime Minister that comes out of your midst, after eighteen months the PM qualifies with 80% of their salary, that’s hurting to the rest of the MPs because in the beginning you were all equal,” he said.
“A gap between the poorer in the country and the rich is very wide and we might be ranging second in Africa, but as MPs we are counted among the rich,” he said.
However, a Member Parliament Mathato Phafoli cried foul into annulling the regulation with the reasons that the same nation and the very concerned youths run to the MPs for help whenever a crises arises at their constituencies.
“I second that the house adopt this report and work around this prevailing matter with intense because the concerned youths including the public at large are the first to run to the Parliamentarians when problems arise in the villages.
“When a person has died they mouth on the local radios asking where is the MP for that constituency? Even when a child has drowned in the river, everything is overburdened on the MPs.
“They run to us saying their children do not have school fees even thought they think we are giving ourselves a lot of money. So I ask the house to adopt this report because we know the burdens bestowed upon us by the same people who are now crying,” she said comparing the salaries of councilors in the neighbouring South Africa with Lesotho MPs.
“If you can look at the salaries of Lesotho MPs, it is shaming as compared to other Parliaments. A councillor in South Africa is earning more than an MP in Lesotho, but we are enduring under these circumstances because we have been chosen by the nation,” she said.
She continued that, “The commission will see that we are earning nothing yet our biggest job is to suffer so that they will increase the money that way I hope the public will keep quiet,” she said.
This was seconded by another MP Litšoane Litšoane who shared the same sentiments that MPs in other countries are earning more than those in Lesotho.
“When you compare the salaries of members of Parliament in Lesotho with other countries, you will see how shaming it is.
“I was in Uganda a while ago and I learned that their Parliamentarians have cars that they pay little instalments during their term and after five years the car becomes theirs. In Lesotho you go up and doing with a car on the small salary that we earn, trying to help this nation. I support this report so that the commission will work on the little benefits that this Members of Parliament gets,” he said.
In the same way, the same sentiments were shared by Moipone Senauoane who indicated that commission will be able to evaluate the salaries of the MPs in comparison with other Government Senior Officials, citing that some people are ridiculously earning a lot of money.
“I support this report and I say it should be adopted by the house. The opinions that these youths raised are important because they will help this country to introspect itself, not to only evaluate the salaries of the parliament members but all the people in the country and there should be a comparison, so that we can scale the salaries of parliament members as compared to some government officials in the country.
“There are some people who earn a lot, ridiculous monies and the economy is not shared equally, we want the commission to look into this matter.
In a different view of things, Tšepang Tšita Mosela gave a different side counselling the MPs to deliver their trusted mandates to the nation as they promised to deliver, then the nation would not complain when they see them carrying out their responsibilities.
She brushed aside the point of comparing the salary of Lesotho MPs with other countries due to a difference of economy.
“I share the same sentiments that the house should adopt this report and the big concern of the country is that the regulation that allows members to have M5000 fuel allowance was made at the wrong time. It is our duty to help the country to help the nation to understand the responsibility of parliamentarians.
“The other expectation of the public is to see us completing our tasks in time. Since this matter involve money it affects the economy of this country because the time that these regulations were made was wrong, I believe that if Basotho will see us determined to do away with any activity that would affect the economy, this matter would rest,” she said.
“So if the country can see us taking action against corruption activities in the ministries as probed by the Public Accounts Committee, they would understand that we are really doing our job and they would accept these kinds of regulations that include increment of salaries or fuel allowances.
“The point of comparing the salaries and benefits given to members of parliament in Lesotho and other countries is far-fetched because there is a wide gap between the economies of such countries with Lesotho. Yes it is true that some of the government officials are earning more than the parliamentarians, but this is the correct time to change things around,” she said.
One of the concerned youths, Tumelo Moteuli charged that they are not satisfied to realise that the MPs did not withdraw the M5000 as requested and that they are not even remorseful in the whole situation. He told this reporter that they are yet to meet in order to orchestrate their protest towards the matter.
“We are not satisfied with the fact that the MPs did not withdraw the M5000 because this says that they do not understand that have to withdraw the regulation.
“They are misdirecting themselves when they said they are helping the public at the constituencies and that is not their responsibility, theirs is simple to allocate the budgets, monitor the usage of finances and make regulations as well as amending them. The rest of the errands like burying the dead and helping people at the constituencies belong to the councillors,” he said.
He continued that, “We are going to challenge that issue, we are going to find ways to make them accountable. They are paid by the Public directly from the Public coffers, how do they make such increment without consulting the public and seeking approval of the public?” he asked.
“I was ashamed to hear Ntoi Rapapa saying there is nothing wrong with the increment and that says the whole minister does not understand that it is wrong. They even have benefits.
“They can’t compare the economy of Lesotho to other countries and expect to earn much as other MPs in other countries do. They have to make laws that will help this country to generate more of the economy so that everyone is able to benefit, that way they will be able to have increment,” he said.