MASERU — Tempers flared in parliament on Thursday during debate on whether the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology students who were caught with fake certificates last year should be given a second chance. The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) advocated leniency while the ruling coalition of All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP) were adamant that they should be sent to prison.
The heated debate started after the Deputy Minister of Education, Apesi Ratšele told DC MP Lineo Molise-Mabusela, that the plan is to see the students going to prison.
Molise-Mabusela had asked the minister to update parliament of “plans to save the Limkokwing students who were expelled due to forged certificates from facing a bleak future”.
“It is quite disturbing that the Honourable Member of Parliament asks the Honourable Minister of Education and Training to apprise this Honourable House of the minister’s plans to salvage their future,” Ratšele said. “The plan is to see them going to prison. That is where they belong,” he said. “We need not to be seen condoning this kind of abhorrable practice. Remember, these people fraudulently gained advantage and admission into our institutions of higher learning which they did not deserve, denying the opportunity to those who deserve.”
Ratšele said “these criminals fraudulently acquired sponsorship from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) denying the opportunity to the deserving students.” Standing on point of order, the DC’s Mphosong MP Bataung Leleka complained that Ratšele instead of answering the question he was making a ministerial statement in parliament and wrongly finding the students guilty even before their cases were heard by the courts.
“His is a hard talk of people being sent to prison,” Leleka said. “I don’t know how he found them guilty.” Deputy Sepeaker Lekhetho Rakuoane ruled that Ratšele’s statement was appropriate. “Indeed the people should know that they are going to prison,” Rakuoane said. Molise-Mabusela then asked if the education ministry had not acted prematurely by ensuring that the students are expelled before courts of law found them guilty, to which Ratšele answered that they have just been suspended.
“When the courts find them guilty, as some of them have already been found guilty, they will go to prison where they deserve to be,” Ratšele said. Molise-Mabusela also asked if it was not a waste of public funds to expel students, some of whom have already studied for some years and were performing well. Ratšele answered that it did not matter whether they had spent years studying and were good performers.
“The bottom line was that they are fraudsters worthy of being imprisoned,” he said.
The DC’s Lebakeng MP, Semano Sekatle, wanted Ratšele to assure parliament that since he was determined to see that the fraudsters were jailed, all people with fake certificates will have the same fate “especially the ones he has just employed”. Ratšele said they will go to prison “irrespective of whether they are of the ruling side or the opposition side. They belong there”.
Another DC MP, Popane Lebesa, said Ratšele should assure the House that he would swallow his pride when others are found not guilty. Seemingly annoyed by the exchange between the DC MPs and Ratšele, the Lesotho Workers Party leader Macaefa Billy said the questions asked were promoting corruption. Billy wanted Deputy Speaker Rakuoane to stop DC MPs asking Ratšele further questions, complaining that that was tantamount to promoting corruption.
“Truly I do not believe that this is the policy of parliament, because if we are really MPs it is our duty to reduce corruption,” Billy said. Mootsi Lehata, the DC MP for Makhaleng, complained that Rakuoane allowed Billy to accuse the DC MPs of promoting corruption.