Sparks fly in caucus meeting

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…as ABC legislators accuse Moleleki of seeking to muzzle the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

Pascalinah Kabi

A RECENT caucus meeting of legislators from the four parties in the governing four party collation reportedly degenerated into a slanging match after some All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislators accused the Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki, of seeking to muzzle the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Sources close to the events told the Lesotho Times that tempers flared a fortnight ago in parliament after ABC legislators, Motlohi Maliehe and Nyapane Kaya, took exception to Mr Moleleki’s assertions that PAC chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane was using the PAC to embarrass public servants to gain political mileage.

Mr Mochoboroane is the leader of the opposition Movement for Economic Change (MEC). He has previously denied allegations that he was using the PAC for political mileage. He has insisted that the portfolio committee was only executing its duties according to its mandate.

The caucus, which was chaired by legislator Sam Rapapa from Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ABC party, was attended by legislators from the four governing parties, namely the ABC, Mr Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the Basotho National Party (BNP).

The meeting was held a fortnight ago at the National Assembly premises immediately after the normal parliamentary session. It was held a few days after deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Teboho Lehloenya, announced that all parliamentary committees, including the PAC, had been barred from holding its sessions in the chambers on security grounds.

Mr Lehloenya said the PAC and other parliamentary committees were now expected to hold all their proceedings in the committee rooms.

PAC subsequently canned all its proceedings on the grounds that the committee rooms were too small to accommodate committee members and all individuals who would be summoned to give evidence before it.

A few days after the deputy speaker’s announcement, the legislators from the governing parties reportedly held a caucus where tempers flared after Mr Moleleki raised concerns about the PAC proceedings.

“In that meeting Ntate Moleleki told the government legislators that they must tread carefully on the issue of the PAC as Ntate Mochoboroane was using it to embarrass people and act as though he was above the law,” a source said.

“Ntate Moleleki appeared deeply disturbed by the ongoing PAC investigations into the misappropriation of public funds, saying it was not good for the PAC chairperson to continue to embarrass civil servants during the proceedings.”

Another source said that Mr Moleleki’s remarks irked ABC legislators, Motlohi Maliehe and Nyapane Kaya, who said there was nothing wrong with the PAC taking public servants to task for abusing public funds.

Mr Kaya allegedly accused Mr Moleleki of attempting to divide PAC along party lines and seeking to protect his allies from scrutiny by the parliamentary body.

“Ntate Maliehe immediately spoke after Ntate Moleleki and said he didn’t see any problem with the embarrassment of public officials if at all Mochoboroane was embarrassing anyone. He (Maliehe) said that kind of embarrassment would go a long way in uprooting corruption in the civil service as people would now be afraid of looting government money.

“Ntate Kaya also spoke out and told Ntate Moleleki that he was only trying to protect his allies from being embarrassed. (He)  Ntate Kaya said that Ntate Moleleki was only seeking to protect his allies and he was aware of a picture of Ntate Moleleki and Advocate Hlahlobo Moruri that the latter had posted to his Facebook page,” the source said.

Adv Moruri is the former Assistant Master of the High Court. He posted to his Facebook page, pictures of himself and Mr Moleleki. Adv Moruri also recently joined hands with the Master of the High Court ‘Makatleho Matia and Moroesi Tau-Thabane to file a court application seeking to bar the PAC from summoning them to appear before it.

The trio also want the High Court to interdict the PAC from investigating or dealing with matters related to the Administration of Estates Proclamation No.19 of 1935.

The trio have already appeared before the PAC on 16 and 17 April this year to respond to allegations that the office of the Master of the High Court misappropriated funds from the estate of the late Molise Mapetla.

Mpho Mapetla, one of the children of the late Mr Mapetla, testified before the PAC last month and lamented the manner in which the office of the Master of the High Court administered their father’s estate. She alleged that Adv Moruri cheated her and her siblings of their inheritance.

The PAC then directed the principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service, Lebohang Mochaba, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disbursement of the orphans’ M546 574.83 inheritance by Adv Moruri.

PS Mochaba, Ms Matia, Adv Moruri and other employees were supposed to appear before the PAC last month with a full report of what transpired during the execution of late Mr Mapetla’s estate.

However, this did not happen after the trio filed their court application on 18 May this year.

Commenting further on the developments at the caucus meeting, one source said the caucus told Mr Kaya that he was out of order and asked him to apologise to Mr Moleleki for his remarks. Mr Kaya is said to have promptly obeyed and apologised to the Deputy Prime Minister.

“Ntate Moleleki did not respond to the allegations levelled against him but he asked that the caucus should investigate his relationship with Adv Moruri as he doesn’t remember him. He asked that Ntate Kaya be part of the investigating team but the caucus said there was no need for investigations,” the source said.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Kaya refused to say whether or not he had been involved in a heated exchange of words with Mr Moleleki. He said that the caucus deliberations were secret and could not be shared with the media.

“I can’t deny or confirm anything but all I can tell you is that issues discussed in the caucus meetings are secret and they should not be shared with the media,” Mr Kaya said.

The Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, refuted allegations that the government was divided over the PAC issue.

“What I heard is that there was a caucus in parliament where the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane) and other government legislators met and agreed that the PAC will continue its proceedings and its proceedings would be televised,” Mr Mphaka said.

He said preparations were being made for PAC sessions to be held in the senate building and funds had been set aside to purchase equipment to be used during the PAC proceedings.

Mr Moleleki was not reachable for comment on his mobile phone.

And on Tuesday, AD Secretary General Mahali Phamotse told a media briefing that the caucus discussions were confidential and should not be shared with the media.

“I will not disclose such issues. Issues discussed in the caucus meetings are as sacred as those discussed during cabinet meetings. The caucus agrees on some issues and disagree on others.

“I trust that parliament will come up with disciplinary measures against the person leaking confidential issues discussed during parliamentary caucus meetings,” said Dr Phamotse who is also the Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation.

She however, said the attacks on Mr Moleleki and the AD were part of a “smear campaign” by “small cliques” from within and outside the government that needed to be quashed.

Dr Phamotse also said that the AD fully supported PAC proceedings, adding that it had never blocked its members from appearing before PAC.

Dr Phamotse said AD members ‘Mabahlakoana Mapetla and Justice Ministry Principal Secretary, Lebohang Mochaba, had already appeared before the committee.

Ms Mapetla, who stands accused of cheating the Mapetla orphans out of their father’s inheritance, is Dr Phamotse’s Private Secretary.

She however, denied that Adv Moruri was an AD member. She also said there was nothing peculiar about Mr Moleleki appearing in photographs with Adv Moruri since the AD leader was a prominent person who took pictures with anyone regardless of their social standing.

AD spokesperson Thuso Litjobo concurred with Dr Phamotse, adding that he remembered Adv Moruri from their days at the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) where he was nicknamed ‘Test’.

“We left him (Adv Moruri) in Qacha’s Nek with DC and I suspect he is still a DC member. Test is also seen on the pictures with the First Lady (‘Maesaiah Thabane) and the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane). Should that be taken as an indication that he is also an ABC member,” Mr Litjobo asked rhetorically.

[beautifulquote align=”left” cite=””]We apologise to valued readers of our Lesotho Times publication. This story was on page 2 of the Lesotho Times (7-13 June 2018) and it was supposed to be continue on Page 29. However, due to a technical challenge, it was not carried over. We have therefore reproduced the story here in full and we sincerely regret the inconvenience caused.[/beautifulquote]

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