MASERU — Local Government and Chieftainship Deputy Minister Selibe Mochoboroane has come under fire for alleged “contempt of parliament”. According to the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) MPs for the Qacha’s Nek and Lebakeng constituencies, Dr Pontšo Sekatle and Semano Sekatle, Mochoboroane misled parliament in his response to the question asked by Sekatle regarding the “dismissal of district administrators (DAs) for the Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka district”.
The question, addressed to Local Government Minister and Deputy-Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, was part of the routine Thursday parliamentary question and answer session, in which Dr Sekatle was demanding clarity pertaining to the dismissal of the two DAs. The heated exchange between Mochoboroane and the Sekatles, came after the deputy minister had answered a question on behalf of Metsing, who was absent from the day’s proceedings.
Apparently Sekatle was not pleased with Mochoboroane’s response and fumed, accusing the deputy minister failing to “answer truthfully and do justice to the question asked”. “Your response does not answer what really transpired. I’m here representing the people and I’m asking this question because I want them to hear what the minister has to say about his actions,” Sekatle said furiously. Sekatle added: “Now can the minister prove false that the DAs in question, after being given three months’ notices, were written long letters informing them that they are being fired because of their political affiliation?”
However, a seemingly defiant Mochoboroane told Deputy National Assembly Speaker Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, presiding over the day’s proceedings, that he had “answered the questions asked”. “I have answered truthfully. For any more questions the honourable member for Qacha’s Nek might have regarding the letters, she should go ask anew and I will respond,” Mochoboroane retorted. Sekatle had asked Metsing to shed some light to the Honorable House on the reasons for the dismissal of the District Administrators of the districts of Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka, for apparently “being politically recruited in their former engagements”.
Sekatle’s question implied that the DAs had been sacked contrary to Metsing’s speech in the august house on September 12, 2012, in which he effectively stated that no government employee would be sacked for their political affiliation or “just to create a vacancy for a more favoured individual”. Mochoboroane had responded that DAs are engaged on contractual basis for three years by the minister of local government “in consultation with the Prime Minister”. “According to the Local government Act, 1997, as amended on Section 3 (a) (1), contracts signed by the District Administrators clearly stipulate that between the employer and the employee, one of them can terminate the contract whenever they wish so,” Mochoboroane said.
“The party that terminates the contract is required by the sections of the contract of employment to give notice of three months to the other party or to pay three months salary in lieu of notice.” Mochoboroane said the DAs in question were dismissed “as per the Local Government Act, 1997 and nothing else”. Sekatle then implored Rakuoane, to ensure the questions are answered truthfully, saying the DAs she was referring to were those of Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek districts who were “dismissed from work”.
“After their dismissal they went to court and were granted court orders that reinstated them into office,” Sekatle said. “They were written letters which I could bring to this house as evidence, clearly showing they were fired on political grounds.” “The Qacha’s Nek one went to court and won the case. He was fired for political reasons, with a long letter written by the honourable minister,” Sekatle said fervently. Sekatle was adamant that Mochoboroane’s answer was not satisfactory as what he was referring to “applies where there are satisfactory reasons for dismissal”.
Sekatle said she was asking the questions as per Metsing’s pledge that no Mosotho would be “dismissed from the public service because of their political orientation”. A seemingly disappointed Sekatle also lashed out at Mochoboroane for pretending as if the DA issue was news to him when “he knows about the matter in question”. “His responses are turning a question of national importance into a mockery,” Sekatle said.
Then, Rakuoane stepped in to Mochoboroane’s defense, to emphasise that he could not push the deputy-minister to respond “any more than he has already answered the question asked”. Rakuoane declared that Sekatle raised important issues which concerned the court of law adding as such he expected “to hear mention of contempt of court as there is a court order being mentioned”.
The speaker added that he understood what Sekatle had asked and that the deputy minister had “attempted to answer the questions”. It was at this point that Semano Sekatle, Dr Sekatle’s husband and colleague in the DC, raised a point of order saying in parliament ministers are “required to answer questions truthfully and not to deceive the house”.
“When opening this 8th Parliament the speaker of this house clearly stressed that you cannot deceive parliament,” Sekatle said furiously. He said the deputy minister should know that “he cannot deceive parliament or the people” as those people he was asked about were not dismissed through a notice but only letters indicating their dismissals were on the basis that they are members of a political party.