MASERU — Opposition MPs this week united in condemning the proposed Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Retirement and Spouses’ Benefits) Bill 2010 that was tabled in parliament last week.
The MPs told the Lesotho Times that the Bill was “a nasty piece of legislation” aimed at extorting public funds.
The Bill, which seeks to repeal the Prime Minister’s (Retirement and Benefits) Act, 1997 was tabled in parliament last Friday.
The Bill argues that there is need to facilitate for the increment of the retirement benefits of “the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister”.
The provision is set to extend to their spouses as well.
However, the opposition this week ganged up in vociferously opposing the Bill.
They said the Bill was an unnecessary drain on the fiscus considering the recent global economic meltdown and Lesotho’s economic status.
Some MPs also argued the Bill was discriminatory as it did not extend a similar provision to ministers, MPs and civil servants. They said they will look at ways to ensure the Bill “is not discriminatory”.
Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) MP Thabang Kholumo said the proposed Bill smacked of corruption.
“This is corruption of the highest order. It defies logic how a Bill of this nature could be tabled before parliament. It is a blatant extortion of public funds,” Kholumo said.
“The contents of this Bill are shocking to say the least. It just seeks to have the nation bear the burden for the upkeep of other people even when they are no longer in service.”
The Lesotho Workers’ Party deputy leader Sello Maphalla said the Bill was meant to prepare for a smooth exit “for some special people”.
“When the Prime Minister’s (Retirement Benefits) was drafted in 1997, they should have considered these other people. Why now?” Maphalla said.
“We are in the midst of a financial crisis which has clouded prospects of a bright future for students, but all they can think of is how to make it easy for themselves.
“We need to look at this Bill very carefully as the opposition and ensure that it is amended because in its current state it is discriminatory. Opposition parties need to come together on this one.”
Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader Jeremane Ramathebane echoed Maphalla’s sentiments that “the Bill in its current state is discriminatory”.
“It is wrong because it discriminates against ministers, Members of Parliament and civil servants. It is not supposed to be enacted into law,” Ramathebane said.
Khauhelo Ralitapole of the Basutoland African Congress questioned the motive behind spouses being provided for by the Bill “as compensation for leaving their respective professions”.
“Nothing has ever been said about making a provision for pensions for MPs. What about MPs and their spouses?” Ralitapole said.
“What prevents the spouses of the prime minister and his deputy from working for themselves, from earning their keep in their respective professions?”
Marematlou Freedom Party leader Vincent Malebo however differed with his opposition colleagues adding “it is an international practice”.
“Other African countries are doing it, maybe Lesotho is just trying to follow suit. It is what it is,” Malebo said.
“It is meant to protect them from poverty once they vacate public office. They will be having no other means of making a living so they have to do it. It is done for chief executive officers of other countries.”
Development for Peace Education director Sofonea Shale said the government needed to give more reasons to justify the Bill.
“The reasons seeking to justify the Bill might have been provided but they are just not enough considering the country’s socio-economic status,” Shale said.
“We are looking at the state of our education and students who are facing a bleak future because there are no available funds to allow them to further their studies.
“It therefore makes it difficult for an ordinary man on the street to comprehend or find justification in the law.”
However, Shale was of the opinion that it was a noble move for the country to cater for the needs of people who “have served the country in earnest”.