The misery of Mahapa

The misery of Mahapa

…Parliament says it doesn’t recognise his position..

MASERU – POLITICAL banter, hilarious as it is, sometimes belies serious issues.
Take, for instance, the joke that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition government of four parties is a four-by-four (4×4) truck stuck in the mud.
The laughs lighten what is otherwise a grave situation of a government struggling to deliver services after running into financial crunch. And so we chuckle about a problem that looks like its the government’s but is really ours as a country.

We have a broke government struggling to meet its obligations. The austerity measures are already biting. That’s no laughing matter. The joke might be on the government but the crisis upon us.
Supporters of parties in government wince while the opposition zealots giggle, yet they are all in the storm.
The fact that the Ministry of Education has two deputy ministers is not a laughing matter but still that doesn’t stop us from making jokes about it.

Education Deputy Minister ’Maphoka Motoboli had barely settled into her position when Mothepu Mahapa was also appointed deputy minister.
Although there was some outrage over the government creating ‘non-existent’ job and bloating the cabinet, the general reaction was that of amusement.
Opponents immediately coined a joke that Mahapa is a deputy of a deputy. He was assisting the assistant, they said.

What fed the hilarity was that this unprecedented appointment was coming from a government that had screamed over the thriftlessness of the previous administration.
Seemingly, the pot had forgotten that it had once called the kettle black.

Yet while we are laughing, some officials in government and the Ministry of Education, in particular, are baffled.
They just don’t get why the ministry needs two deputy ministers.
And even if they see the logic that one could be for basic education and other for tertiary they remain confused because government has not defined the roles of deputies.
Who does what and when, is the unanswered question.

Who is responsible for what matters in government as much as it does in private business, churches, families and even stokvels.
It turns out that those who work with Mahapa are alone in that bewilderment.
Last Thursday, it was Deputy Speaker of Parliament Teboho Lehloenya’s turn to attempt to make sense of Mahapa’s role in government.
Mahapa wanted to answer questions on his minister’s behalf but Lehloenya told him to sit down.
Undeterred, Mahapa tried again but Lehloenya would not budge.

The deputy speaker was insisting that Mahapa could not speak for the minister because his position was not clear.
Lehloenya reasoned that the Hansard writers do not know how to differentiate Mahapa and Motoboli as deputy ministers.
He said the “Hansard will read: Honourable Deputy Minister and we will not know whether it is this one who is a male or that one who is a female”.
“We do not know who is speaking on behalf of the ministry,” Lehloenya said.

“Until the government solves this I will not allow you Honourable Deputy Minister to answer questions on behalf of the ministry.”
Mahapa’s third attempt was rejected again, forcing him to slump back into his seat while the opposition MPs had a good laugh at his expense. Some immediately reminded him that he was getting the desserts of having defected from the Democratic Congress (DC) to the Alliance of Democrats (AD) in February.
“Where were you going that other day when you left your home?” shouted an MP from the opposition.
“You deserve what you are getting my brother,” said another.

When Mahapa made a fourth attempt to say something Lehloenya came hard on him.
“It seems the Honourable Deputy Minister did not understand me. Please sit down, you will not talk on behalf of the ministry,” Lehloenya told him, amid delight from opposition MPs.
“We already have the Deputy Minister of Education (Motoboli), so we do not know what the appropriate way of calling the Deputy Minister (Mahapa) because we still have one.”
“I was thinking now that we have two deputy ministers, we would be having deputy minister for higher education and deputy minister for basic education. The government has not responded to my suggestion.”

“This will in future help us to make good decisions when thinking of giving people the positions,” he said, adding: “We will not just give people the positions for the sake of doing it.”
Public Service Minister Joang Molapo had to read the answers on the education minister’s behalf but first he tried to defend Mahapa.
“You are taking this issue too far and surely you must let the Honourable Deputy Speaker to answer,” Molapo told Lehloenya amid booing from opposition MPs.
“Withdraw your words, withdraw those words!” shouted the DC spokesman Serialong Qoo.

“You are out of order Honourable Minister Molapo, you should not be against the ruling of the Deputy Speaker, this is not allowed,” Qoo said. Molapo withdrew his words.
The matter had been settled but one MP could not resist sneaking in one last jibe at Mahapa.
“You are now a backbencher and you should ask ministers questions because you are not allowed to represent the ministry,” said the MP.

The glee from the opposition might have fit the moment but still, the fundamental question of Mahapa’s job description remains unanswered.
Jokes aside, it is important to define the role of each of the deputy ministers. Until then, the MPs might be tacitly allowing the government to pay someone whose job is not known.
It won’t be so funny when it comes out that a government running on a shoestring has been paying two people to do the same job.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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