MASERU — In a rare show of unity opposition and ruling party MPs this week ganged up and pushed for the political editor of the Sunday Express and Lesotho Times to be thrown out of parliament.
The MPs were not happy with the way Bongiwe Zihlangu reported the story about how they were going to get a chunk of their gratuities after spending just two years in parliament.
Government ministers were however not part of the fracas and did not partake in the brouhaha.
The MPs led by the Lesotho Workers’ Party’s Rantelali Shea, were livid with Zihlangu, who they accused of spreading “false information about their gratuities”.
An angry Shea demanded that Zihlangu be thrown out of parliament adding that “freedom of the media leads reporters to report on things that strip us of our dignity”.
“The Sunday Express should be sued for the lies they reported about the amount of money the paper claims we will be getting,” Shea said.
“The reporter, who wrote that story, Bongiwe Zihlangu, should also be sued in broad daylight and be ordered by the courts to pay us the M315 000 she alleges that we are going to get.
“The money we are to get is about M104 000, not more than that. The committee on the rights of MPs should look into this matter and see to it that the paper is sued.”
The Sunday Express of May
The paper reported the 25 percent gratuity as M315 000.
That figure was calculated on the basis of their monthly salary of M21 000 over the 60 months that they will be in parliament.
At the end of the five-year term an MP would have earned a gross salary of M1 260 000.
The M315 000 is derived at the 25 percent of that gross figure. That figure will be subject to taxation.
Shea’s LWP colleague counterpart, Sello Maphalla, attempted to come to Zihlangu’s rescue by trying to sensitise his fellow MPs about the role of the media.
“I do not think this is the way to go about this issue. You should all know that media is partner in development and that parliament and media are one,” Maphalla said.
“Those with qualms regarding this matter should approach it with calm and address it in the relevant platform.”
To that the MPs banged their desks in anger and shouted to Maphalla in unison.
“You must have helped that journalist write the story by providing her with information”, some of them said.
Another ABC legislator, Motumi Ralejoe, stood up with a point of order calling for issues surrounding media policy “to be addressed”.
Ralejoe had not finished making a point when another roar of disenchantment exploded, forcing him to cut his comment short.
‘Matlotliso Lebajoa of the National Independent Party (NIP) identified Zihlangu among journalists seated in the press gallery.
The MPs looked Zihlangu’s way and one called out: “Oh, she’s here? Is she the one writing nonsense about us? (Ke eena ea ntseng a ngola ntho li sele ka rona?).”
“She should not be allowed to sit in the parliamentary debates.”
All the while the deputy speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, was calm and ignored the MPs’ call for Zihlangu to leave the house.
At this juncture Maphalla stood up with a question intended for Health Minister, Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng.
But the MPs would have none of it. They accused Maphalla of protecting Zihlangu.
“It is because she’s her person (Ke hobane Bongiwe ke motho oa Maphalla?),” shouted a female voice from the extreme end of the press gallery. Zihlangu later left parliament voluntarily.
2 reported that the MPs who had been in parliament for two years were going to get 25 percent of their gratuity after the Members of Parliament Salaries (Amendment) Bill 2010 was unanimously passed in parliament last Wednesday.