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MPs clash over debt repayment pledge



MASERU – FINANCE Minister Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane on Tuesday came under fierce attacks from the opposition in parliament who accused her of misleading the House on debt repayments.

The Democratic Congress (DC)’s Tšitso Cheba, who is the MP for ’Makhoroana constituency, said Dr Matlanyane had in her budget speech last month promised to settle all debts by end of March.

Cheba raised this after Dr Matlanyane told parliament that the government owed internal and external entities a whopping M22.2 billion. She wanted the MPs to approve the budget.

An irate Cheba said it was “unfortunate that Basotho had elected the current government”.

He charged that Dr Matlanyane had in her budget speech said Lesotho would find ways to pay back those she owed.

Cheba said Dr Matlanyane “should instill discipline in our financial management system so that revenue increases to allow the government to pay its debts”.

He said parliament “is a holy place where people speak the truth as they represent the nation and are expected to be held accountable”.

“Finance Minister said hot or cold the government would have paid its debts by the third month of 2023,” Cheba said.

“Now we are left with only 10 days before the third month ends, but the debts have not been paid yet,” he said.

“When we meet again the minister should come back and give a progress report on the debts both internally and externally.”

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, stood up to defend Dr Matlanyane but without success.

Mokhosi said Cheba should withdraw his accusation because Dr Matlanyane never said the government would have paid all its debts by March but Cheba refused.

Deputy Speaker, Tšepang Tšita-Mosena, instructed Cheba to withdraw his statement against Dr Matlanyane, saying what he said was not true, but he still refused.

“Please do not argue with the chair and do as you are supposed to do. Withdraw your words,” Tšita-Mosena said.

Despite the ruling, Cheba and his opposition colleagues protested against the order until the DC leader Mathibeli Mokhothu stood up to intervene.

Mokhothu said it was not fair to order Cheba to withdraw his words because he had never accused the minister of misleading the nation.

“Speaker, you should stop this,” Mokhothu said.

Cheba however ended up withdrawing his words and also told the House that the government side was disrupting his presentation.

“We are not here to fight, we are here to talk about national matters,” he said.

The Makhaleng MP, Mootsi Lehata, said in her speech, Dr Matlanyane said it is not fair to subsidise agricultural products only to put them far from farmers where they are not able to access them.

Lehata complained that the minister’s statement means nothing because the government’s agricultural inputs’ depot in Ha-Foso “is far from other places”.

“Why are they not distributed to the resource centres in the districts?” Lehata said.

He criticised Dr Matlanyane’s budget saying it is not clear how electricity will be secured “yet everyone is aware that soon South Africa will not be able to sell to Lesotho and other countries due to their load-shedding problem”.

“The budget does not address how the tourism sector will be enhanced to create revenue,” he said.

In response, Dr Matlanyane said the government is currently paying the service providers.

“Yes, I once said we plan to pay all our debts by the end of this financial year,” Dr Matlanyane said.

“However, I did not say we will pay all debts at the end of the financial year,” she said.

“We said it is our plan.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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