MASERU — Opposition MPs walked out of parliament for the second time on Monday in protest against the tabling of the controversial Land Bill 2009.
The walk-out however triggered a fierce response by MPs from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party and its political ally the National Independent Party (NIP).
The opposition lawmakers first walked out of parliament last Friday arguing it was “premature to discuss the Bill” in its present format as it was still fraught with errors.
The opposition says it wants more public consultations before the Bill can be tabled in parliament.
On Monday, the MPs led by All Basotho Convention (ABC) youth leader, Libe Moremoholo, walked out of parliament in objection to the tabling of the Bill.
Only Basotho National Party (BNP) legislator Seabata Thabisi, Popular Front for Democracy leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, and Senkatana leader, Lehlohonolo Tšehlana did not walk out.
Mount Moorosi MP, Kose Makoa, said it was wrong for the opposition MPs to walk out because they denied themselves an opportunity to raise their concerns about the Bill.
“It is wrong because the public was consulted when this Bill was prepared. I wonder what they will explain to the people about this Bill,” Makoa said.
He said it was unfortunate that the opposition was complaining that the public had not been consulted when the Bill was formulated when “in fact the portfolio committee made efforts to gather opinions of the people in the districts”.
Tourism Minister Lebohang Ntsinyi, who represents the NIP in parliament, said the opposition was denying the public truth and justice by twisting facts to suit their own interests.
Ntsinyi said some opposition MPs were multiple land owners some of which is lying fallow and where walking out because parliament wants to pass a law that will deal with the matter by reallocating unused land.
“There are people (MPs) who have multiple plots but they do not use them,” Ntsinyi said.
“Actually some of those ones who walked out have many plots which they do not use.”
Ntsinyi said the Land Bill would among other things attract foreign direct investors as it gives foreign-owned firms land rights as long as Basotho had a 20 percent stake in the firms.
But the fiercest attack came from Maputsoe MP, Nkhetse Monyalotsa, who defected from the ABC a year ago after clashing with party leader Thomas Thabane.
Monyalotsa said there was nothing new and sinister in allocating land to foreigners as the founder of the Basotho nation, Moshoeshoe I, gave land to foreign missionaries from the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Morija, the Catholics at Roma and the Anglicans in Maseru.
He said opposition MPs were beneficiaries of the same land allocations to missionaries as they were educated at mission schools run by the foreigners.
Monyalotsa said Thabane, Marematlou Freedom Party leader, Moeketse Malebo, Basotho National Party leader, Metsing Lekhanya, and the Lesotho People’s Congress leader, Kelebone Maope, were all guilty of the same crimes they were accusing the LCD government of committing under the Land Bill.
Monyalotsa said the four were at one time ministers in the military junta that dispossessed Basotho of the land in Maputsoe and gave it to a foreign-owned investment firm, Investec, in the 1980s.
“Investec owns land in Maputsoe and another (piece of land) in Mafeteng after the military regime leader Honourable Lekhanya allocated it to them,” he said.
The remarks were met with a loud round of applause from ruling party MPs who banged their desks in approval.
Public Service Minister Semano Sekatle then launched a fierce attack on an unnamed opposition MP who was part of the committee that prepared the Bill.
Sekatle, speaking in the vernacular Sesotho language, described the MP as “maloma a folisa, matsoinya a itatola”, which means the one who bites and heals, the one who farts but goes on to deny doing it.
The old Sesotho adage refers to a person of double standards.
“This person unashamedly said he did not attend the discussions in preparation of this Bill and yet he is a member of the committee,” Sekatle said.
The Lesotho Times has established that Lesotho Workers Party leader, Macaefa Billy, was part of the committee that reviewed the Bill.
But Billy has said he did not attend the committee meetings in objection to the Bill.