MASERU — When MP Libe Moremoholo attended parliament last Friday he expected fellow opposition MPs to fight in his corner.
The ethics committee had already convicted him for making false allowance claims and leaking confidential information to the media but he was hopeful the august House would be divided when it came to approving the punishment.
On discussion was the ethics committee’s ruling banning Moremoholo from speaking in parliament or to the media for 12 months, a punishment that he as well as other opposition MPs considered “harsh”.
Yet when decision time came Moremoholo discovered he had very few friends in parliament including among the opposition MPs.
First the opposition MPs, including those from his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, who were in the ethics committee that convicted him, did not issue a minority report against the ruling.
And when Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP) legislator Mabuo Kojoana, who is in parliament by virtue of being an ABC member, stood up to speak he fell short of saying Moremoholo deserved the punishment.
Moremoholo is ill-mannered, Kojoana told parliament.
“The worst part is that he’s especially impertinent towards the chairman of the social cluster portfolio committee of which he’s a member.”
If members of the social cluster committee had it their way they would have expelled him, Kojoana added.
Kojoana also said she wondered how Moremoholo’s wife and child put up with his “foul attitude” when those “of us who interact with him briefly can’t stand the sight of him”.
“I hope this suspension will allow him time out to reflect on his conduct and that his head will have cooled off when he returns. I move that it be applied with immediate effect.”
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Matsieng constituency MP Ramootse Lehata said Moremoholo should consider himself lucky because parliament could have decided to report his case to the police.
“If it (fraud case) was to go to court and he happened to lose the case, it would be regarded as a criminal offence. He would never stand in the 2012 elections.”
Only Lesotho Workers’ Party deputy leader Sello Maphalla and ABC MP Pitso Maisa defended Moremoholo.
But their pleas did not impress the Speaker of the National Assembly Ntlhoi Motsamai who said Moremoholo should face the music.
Moremoholo however had the Home Affairs Assistant Minister Lineo Molise-Mabusela to thank for reducing his sentence.
Molise-Mabusela, an LCD MP, came to his rescue when she suggested that instead of banning him from speaking in parliament for one year he should be suspended without pay for four months.
She said two months of the suspension should be set aside on condition that he does not commit a similar offence until the parliament’s term expires.
The House agreed.
Although the new punishment might hit his pocket hard it is still better than being banned from speaking in parliament and to the media for 12 months.
In the meantime he can continue to speak to the media and when his suspension ends he will be able to contribute to debate in parliament.
A bitter Moremoholo told the Sunday Express that his target is to ensure that parliament elects a more impartial speaker next year.
Motsamai, he said, has allowed his enemies in parliament to trample on his rights.