Parliament descended into chaos on Tuesday soon after Defence and National Security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi had started justifying why his ministry’s M539 million budget proposal for 2015/16 should be approved by the legislators.
Members of Parliament (MPs) from opposition parties — All Basotho Convention, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho — began to jeer as the minister started to speak, resulting in heated exchanges with their ruling counterparts from the Democratic Congress, Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Popular Front for Democracy, Lesotho People’s Congress, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and National Independent Party.
“The main task of this ministry is to ensure there is peace and security in Lesotho,” Mr Mokhosi told the House, sparking a walkout of about one-third of the opposition’s MPs in protest.
However, the minister continued with his motivation despite the exodus and incessant catcalls from the remaining opposition legislators.
“We are preparing to make a recommendation to this House on how we would like government to approach security affairs. This ministry is made up of an administration department, Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and National Security Service (NSS),” said Mr Mokhosi, who was then interrupted by the Malimong Constituency MP, Leshoboro Mohlajoa (ABC), with a point of order.
Mr Mohlajoa asked National Assembly Speaker, Ntlhoi Motsamai, who was acting as Parliamentary Committee chairperson, why government MPs were so excited by the minister’s presentation.
“Is the minister genuinely seeking approval of the budget or is this noise coming from the government side of the House about already knowing what this money is really going to be used for? We already know what this money is going to be used for.”
But Mr Mohlajoa’s interjection prompted an angry reaction from the ruling party MPs, with the Speaker trying, and failing, to bring the House to order.
However, the legislators eventually came under control, allowing Minister Mokhosi to continue his budget explanation.
“The administration department coordinates the army and the NSS, and also undertakes tasks such as purchasing equipment. The LDF’s main duty is the protection of Lesotho’s boundaries, as well as ensuring there is peace and stability in the country. The LDF is currently faced with the task of reforms, which include reviewing its administration, training, capacity-building and VIP protection service.
“In the LDF, we also have the Air Wing, which gives air-travel support to the army and all the government ministries,” said Mr Mokhosi.
“The ministry also has the NSS whose major task is to advise government with intelligence over issues that would otherwise destabilise the country.
“My ministry, therefore, requests this parliament to approve a budget of M539 349 534.00 to be shared as follows: the administration department would get M18, 818,917.00; LDF have M337, 788, 185.00; Air Wing take M86, 130, 886.00; Makoanyane Military Hospital get M20, 550, 068.00 and NSS have M76, 061,478.00,” said Minister Mokhosi.
Moyeni Constituency MP, Mahooana Khati, then supported the minister’s request and implored the rest of the House to do the same.
“I second that the minister be given the monies requested so that he can develop the LDF. We have learned that there are many challenges in the LDF, particularly their equipment which is not in good condition. So the minister should be given the money he has requested so that Lesotho can buy military equipment of the same calibre as that of other countries. We also wish to see the LDF intelligence unit being developed to be of very high standards,” said Mr Khati.
As the House approved the budget with a loud “YES” from the government side, opposition MPs, who had since been reduced in number following the earlier walkout, shouted “NO” but to no avail.