MPs want M75 000 a month


. . . Threaten to block budget


MASERU – Members of Parliament (MPs) are threatening to block the 2020/2021 budget if government does not increase their salaries, Finance Minister Thabo Sofonea told Public Eye yesterday. This paper established this week that government backbenchers were allegedly playing hardball by threatening to block the budget if government failed to increase their salaries to about M75 000 per month.

If their plan succeeds, government could face a financial meltdown. When confronted with this information, Sofonea conceded he was informed the back benchers had a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro and his deputy Mathibeli Mokhothu where they presented their demand. Mokhothu, who is also leader of the House, did not answer his phone yesterday when Public Eye tried to contact him.

“I was not part of that meeting as I was occupied with other tasks but I asked them (MPs) to give me a written list of their demands as they presented them to the prime minister and they promised to do so, but I am still waiting,” Sofonea said. “I do not know how much they said they want as their monthly gross salary because, like I said, I was not part of that meeting. I cannot even say if the salary increase is the only thing they want or if there are some other demands.

“What I have heard, albeit informally, is that MPs are saying they will block the budget if their salaries are not increased. This has provoked widespread public criticism and I think those MPs might reconsider their position,” he added. An MP reportedly earns slightly above M37 000 a month on top of a daily sitting allowance of M150 each. Earlier yesterday, the chairperson of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) parliamentary caucus, ’Mathato Phafoli, dismissed the allegation that MPs wanted a salary increase as propaganda. Phafoli vowed the budget would sail through.

“Take it from me, it is not true that members of parliament want their salaries to be increased to M75 000 failing which they will block the budget. Wait and see what will happen on the day the National Assembly passes the budget,” she said. Towards the end of last month, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane and installation of Dr Majoro, reports emerged within the ABC that most of its MPs wanted to be ministers.

The reports triggered suggestions that when it came to dealing with its own MPs, the ABC seemed to be out of its depth. “The propaganda that MPs want salary hike is being spread by the people that want the nation to believe that the new government does not have the support of the backbenchers,” Phafoli said. She added the propaganda was spread by the people “who think that every MP can be a minister.” “It is impossible to appoint every MP as a minister. Only a certain number of MPs can be ministers at any time,” she said.

Phafoli indicated backbenchers had some influence as they supported government and ministers and said people who were “spreading the propaganda” wanted to paint a picture that government was being held to ransom by MPs. In November last year, opposition MPs refused to adopt a parliamentary report recommending salary increments for parliamentarians and officials in charge of the parastatals. Most of the then opposition MPs are now part of government and some of them are now ministers.

The proposals for the salary increments were contained in the Members of Parliament Salaries (Amendment Schedule) Regulations of 2019 and the Statutory Salaries (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations of 2019 published in a government gazette of October 2019. The two pieces of legislation were meant “to review the salaries of the members of parliament and officials in statutory positions according to different categories and ranks, and repeal and replace the previous regulations on salaries of members of parliament and statutory positions.”

If approved by parliament, the MPs’ annual salaries would be increased from M413 668 to M430 236 (M35 853 per month). In November 2018, it was reported that MPs demanded a 100 percent salary increment that would see their gross monthly salary increase to M74 000 each. The then prime minister, Thabane, reportedly ordered his finance minister Majoro (now prime minister) to establish an inter-ministerial team to consider a revised salary structure for the legislators.

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