MASERU — Something odd happened in parliament this week.
For the first time in the history of Lesotho’s parliament an MP resigned so that he could become an MP.
Kabelo Mafura (pictured left), an MP of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), is the man who took that seemingly weird decision on Monday.
Yet when you talk to him you understand that there is nothing bizarre about his move, after all.
Mafura says he is just looking for “legitimacy from the people and wants power with responsibility”.
Mafura says during the three years that he has been in parliament he has not felt like he had any of those.
The reason was because he was there courtesy of the proportional representation (PR) system.
Not that PR legislators lack legitimacy or have power with responsibility. No.
He is against any insinuation of such sorts.
There is a history to Mafura’s decision.
He had just come from a diplomatic posting in Italy when he faced the late Matseliso Monyakane in the LCD primary election for the Sebapala 66 constituency in Quthing for the 2007 general election.
Monyakane was the incumbent.
Mafura lost by four votes and Monyakane went on to win the seat in the national election.
But because the LCD felt Mafura had lost so narrowly in the primary election it decided to reward him with a PR seat in parliament.
His brief was to assist Monyakane in Sebapala constituency.
“But that was where the problem was,” Mafura said this week.
He says although his relations with Monyakane were neither entirely dysfunctional nor hostile “there was still some tension because the constituency officially belonged to her”.
“I was disadvantaged because there were some projects I couldn’t do for the people without her permission,” he says.
He recalls how an orchard project that he had earmarked for a certain village was blocked by the chief because Monyakane had not approved it.
“That is when I realised that you need to be the elected MP for you to move things. When the seat became vacant after Monyakane’s death I decided to contest in the by-election.”
To do that he had to first resign from his PR seat.
It’s a huge risk because he might not be able to come back to parliament if he loses the by-election in June.
He also risks losing his comfortable salary as an MP altogether.
Mafura says this is a risk that he is willing to take because that is the only way he can get to work closely with the people without having to “play second fiddle to anyone”.
He however believes that the people of Sebapala will vote him back into parliament.
In a primary election held on March 7 Mafura beat his closest rival by 61 votes.
That was a sign of the confidence that the people have in me, he says.
In any case, Mafura says, it is the people of Sebapala themselves who said they wanted him to be their MP.
“They said we understand the risk that you are taking but we can assure you that we will not disappoint you. That is the support that I am counting on.”