â€œEars that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.â€ â€“ African Proverb
Reports that the National Assembly last week adopted the controversial Members of Parliament Salaries (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations of 2023 which entitle Members of Parliament (MPs) to a monthly tax-free M5,000 fuel allowance, among other benefits, are depressing.
This is especially so because during the campaign for the national elections which were held on October 7 last year, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) led by Sam Matekane who is now a prime minister, vowed to do away with that unnecessary expenditure.
This was because when the regulations were initially adopted by the National Assembly in 2021, they sparked an outcry and a group of young people wrote to the then-speaker of the national assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, demanding that they be revoked as a matter of urgency.
Those Young Mavericks said the decision to give MPs M5,000 monthly fuel allowance when the majority of the population was wallowing in poverty was ludicrous and pointed clearly to one thing; â€œthat our elected representatives seem to be totally out of actual touch with the plight of the ordinary citizensâ€.
In August 2021, three young guys who planned a march to petition Prime Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, for a review of MPsâ€™ petrol allowances were ambushed and arrested by the police without being charged.
When RFP said it would scrap the regulations, many people across the country breathed a sigh of relief with a belief that the storm had passed. Little did they know that the war was far from over.
Those regulations have to be revoked if we are as a nation serious about protecting the integrity and dignity of our Parliament.
Allegations of political corruption have become rife in Lesotho in recent years. There have also been mentions of the MPs being involved in corrupt practices.
According to the findings of the Afrobarometer survey published on September 23, 2022, more than half (57 percent) of citizens interviewed said that â€œmostâ€ or â€œallâ€ MPs are corrupt â€“ the worst rating among 13 institutions and leaders the survey asked about.
Such findings weaken our democratic structures and reduce whatever trust the citizenry may have in our governance structures.
It is an undeniable fact, therefore, that to maintain the dignity and sanctity of the Parliament, there is a need to drastically reduce, if not totally eradicate, the perceptions that MPs use Parliament to enrich themselves while many Basotho wallow in poverty.
The controversial regulations also entitle MPs to sitting allowances. Some countries are abolishing sitting allowances for MPs.
In July last year, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) of Kenya announced that sitting allowances for the plenary session were abolished and ceased to be payable.
In Botswana, there has been a discussion that MPs should surrender their sitting allowances.
In February last year, Botswana MP for Mogoditshane, Tumiso Rakgare, challenged his fellow MPs to surrender their daily sitting allowances. Rakgare is also the Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture Development.
This is the direction that Lesotho should take. Is this too much to ask for Mr Matekane, Mr Prime Minister Sir, and your administration?