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Lawmakers attack minister over budget

Caswell Tlali

 

MASERU — Agriculture and Food Security Minister Lesole Mokoma was on Tuesday blasted by opposition MPs for presenting in parliament a ministerial budget proposal that clashed with Finance Minister Timothy Thahane’s annual budget in February.

The angry MPs descended on Mokoma soon after he had presented his proposed budget allocations and expenditure forecasts for his ministry.

Mokoma’s budget proposal did not include the building of shearing houses while Thahane’s budget had specifically mentioned that as one of the key areas that would receive funding.

Several MPs complained that Mokoma was failing to deliver as expected.

The most vocal among the irate MPs were Lesotho Workers Party (LWP)’s Rantelali Shea and Sello Machakela.

Shea runs a sheep project in Semonkong, his rural home.

Shea also accused Mokoma of bringing a budget proposal that reflected the 1999 needs.

Mokoma’s budget, Shea said, was not a true reflection of the needs of farmers for the 2010/2011 fiscal year.

Mokoma proposed an allocation of about M144.4 million for the financial year.

“The minister has tried to present issues here but I fail to relate his tedious speech with the budget of the honourable minister of finance,” Shea said.

“The honourable minister of finance said there will be improvement and the building of shearing sheds but throughout the agriculture minister’s speech there is nowhere where he mentioned that,” he said.

“Who should we believe: finance minister or agriculture minister?”

Shea also said the Ministry of Agriculture had failed to provide correct statistics of sheep in the Thaba-Tseka district because it based its findings on the wool found at the shearing sheds instead of counting the actual flocks reared by farmers.

He challenged Mokoma to ensure that the existing shearing sheds are improved and new ones are built so that enough wool could be collected to increase wool exports.

Shea also accused Mokoma of not making a follow-up on “M600 000 that disappeared” from sheep and goats dipping services by a public servant.

“That money was not taken by the honourable minister but there is a public servant in his ministry who took it,” he said.

“I am expecting the honourable minister to say something about that money because we want it.”

The first MP to attack Mokoma was Machakela who bluntly told him to resign or cross the floor “because the LCD government has failed dismally” to deliver.

“Your honour, what you have just said would be of importance if you were working for a government that has an ear,” Machakela said.

“It was in the fifth parliament, 1998 to 2002, at the Disaster Management Authority where an officer called Khomonngoe Ralichelete promised this house that in our constituencies there would be silos where farmers in block farming would store their harvests,” he said.

“We now need those silos instead of waiting for rotten maize from the Chinese which spends many months on the way in the seas.”

“But up until today, Mr Minister, the government you are working for has failed to fulfil that.”

Machakela said Mokoma can tell parliament good things he was planning but the government would still not deliver.

“Lesotho was represented at a summit in Mozambique where it was recommended that least developed countries should set aside 10 percent of their annual budget for agriculture but your government says that recommendation is not binding,” he said.

“This confirms that even if you may say good things as long as you are in the midst of these LCD people you will fail to deliver.”

“You are working for people who despise advice,” Machakela said, adding: “I say, your honour, you better leave them.”

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