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New retirement perks for PM, wife

Bongiwe Zihlangu

 MASERU — The prime minister, his deputy and their wives are in line to receive generous pensions if a new Bill tabled in parliament on Friday is approved.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Retirement and Spouses’) Bill 2010 was tabled by Public Services Minister Semano Sekatle in the National Assembly on Friday.

The Bill seeks “to increase the retirement benefits of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister”.

It also seeks to “extend the benefits to the former deputy prime minister and spouse, the spouses of an incumbent prime minister and deputy prime minister”.

The proposed law also seeks to extend the benefits to “the widows and widowers of the incumbent and former prime minister and deputy prime minister”.

The new law will repeal the Prime Ministers’ (Retirement Benefits) Act, 1997.

In its statement of objects and reasons the Bill says the reason for the change “is to protect the deputy prime minister, the spouses as well as widows and widowers of the prime minister and deputy prime minister from losing out on certain benefits . . . upon vacation of their offices”.

“It is also to compensate the spouses of the prime minister and deputy prime minister for leaving their respective professions and concurrent remunerations to assume their new roles as spouses of the prime minister and deputy prime minister,” the Bill says.

Section 3 (1) (a) of the Bill says once enacted into law, a prime minister who has held office for a period of 18 months will be automatically entitled to a monthly pension “at the rate of 80 percent of the basic salary”.

A deputy prime minister, who has been in office for 24 months or more, will also be entitled to 80 percent of his basic salary.

“A person who, at the coming into operation of this Act, is a former deputy prime minister shall be granted a monthly pension at the rate of 80 percent of the basic salary attached to the date on which they last held office,” reads part of the Bill.

They shall also be entitled to a chauffeur-driven government vehicle, diplomatic passport, free medical treatment, a bodyguard, free telephone, water and electricity as well as a gardener and a house-maid.

Furthermore, the Bill proposes that the first and second spouses shall as long as the prime minister and his deputy hold office be “paid allowances at the rate set out in Schedule 1”.

Under Schedule 1 annual allowances of the first and second spouses are M357 994 annually or M29 832 monthly and M298 348 annually or M24 863 monthly, respectively.

In addition to the allowances, the first and second spouses will also be entitled to a chauffeur-driven government vehicle, free medical treatment, a bodyguard, diplomatic passport as well as a lady-in-waiting for the first spouse.

However the Bill says the first and second spouses shall not be employed “during the period of office of the prime minister and deputy prime minister”.

It further suggests the first and second spouses be paid a monthly pension at the rate of 80 percent of the spouse’s respective salary “upon the prime minister or deputy prime minister vacating office”.

This means the widow of former deputy prime minister Selometsi Baholo and the wives of Molapo Qhobela and Kelebone Maope, who all served as deputies to the late prime minister Ntsu Mokhehle, will be covered under the proposed law.

The Bill could mean former prime minister Leabua Jonathan’s widow could be entitled to receive the generous perks.

Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Metsing Lekhanya, who led a military junta in the mid-80s, said the proposed law was “discriminatory” as he will not be covered by it.

“In my case, the argument with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is that I led a government that was a military junta that was allegedly undemocratic,” Lekhanya said.

“This means the benefits cannot be extended to me.”

Lekhanya said he would lobby for Jonathan’s widow to be covered under the new law.

“We will definitely argue on her behalf, that she also be covered by benefits similar to those of the first lady, which she is currently not getting,” he said.

“Former deputy prime ministers’ wives will simply have to be included.

“But it will also depend on how far the LCD government decides to backdate the benefits in question.”

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