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Parly throws lifeline to former MPs

Bongiwe Zihlangu

 MASERU — Parliament has passed a motion to help former MPs supposedly living in destitution to earn some income by providing “special expert advice” to the National Assembly.

The motion says parliament will use the former MPs’ “knowledge and experience in matters of law, legislation and governance, international relations and to impart their knowledge to future generations of this country”.

It also says it is meant to afford the former MPs “the status, recognition and respect they deserve”.

The motion was raised by All Basotho Convention MP for the Lithabaneng constituency, Motumi Ralejoe.

Ralejoe said he raised the motion after he realised that once people ceased to be MPs “they are quickly forgotten”.

It’s not clear how the former MPs will be “recognised” and accorded the “status” that they purportedly deserve.

It is also unclear how the arrangement will work.

The real purpose of the motion is not clear.

But during the debate Ralejoe came closer to explaining the “real” spirit of the proposal which he had presented through a vaguely worded statement.

“When we were sworn in as MPs, automatically we ceased to be ordinary and there was honour attached to our new status,” Ralejoe said.

“However, it is disheartening when you bump into someone who used to be an MP in tatters and with their shoes staring them in the face.

“Some even die paupers while families of the lucky few receive compensation from those who still remember them.”

He said some former MPs could still provide special services to parliament.

“There are such people out there whose vast knowledge on governance and legislation can be used to improve the quality of our work in here,” Ralejoe said.

Ralejoe also pointed at retired leader of the Basutoland African Congress, Khauhelo Ralitapole, as “a living example”.

“Dr Ralitapole has indicated that this is her last term in parliament and that she will not be contesting the 2012 elections on behalf of her party,” Ralejoe said.

“This means when she retires, she will be taking with her the skills she acquired through training by this honourable house over many years.

“Therefore, even MPs beyond the walls of this House deserve recognition.”

Lesotho Workers Party leader Macaefa Billy interjected, claiming that former MPs might not have interest in parliamentary affairs “because most of them are destitute”.

“Would it not be wise for a pension fund to be established in their name so that they can also be in a position to lead decent and dignified lives?” Billy asked.

To that Ralejoe said: “I believe the public service minister is currently working on setting up a pension fund for MPs.”

Lesotho Congress for Democracy chief whip Thabang Pheko said “currently former MPs lead difficult lives”.

“They usually feel out of place and find it difficult to integrate back into society when their terms end,” Pheko said.

“They are usually made to feel out of place, as if they have failed by leaving parliament.

“But if their skills are valued they will feel important and accepted by the nation.

“It will also serve as a constant reminder to them that they played an important role in our society.”

Another Lesotho Workers Party MP, Mabuo Kojoana, said if it were true that former MPs would receive recognition from the state present legislators should be allowed to keep their diplomatic passports.

“Why is it then that we are required to return diplomatic passports when we cease to be members of this House? Will we be allowed to keep them?” Kojoana said to a roar of laughter from the House.

The motion received majority support despite deputy speaker of parliament Sephiri Motanyane querying why Ralejoe had decided to bring the motion into the House “without first consulting the relevant committee”.

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