A call for  transparency

A call for transparency

WE note with disappointment how a motion to force MPs to disclose the source of funds and goods they donate to the poor was shot down in Parliament last week.

The motion had been tabled by the Democratic Party of Lesotho’s Proportional Representation MP Limpho Tau.
The MP wanted Parliament to come up with a law that would force politicians to disclose the source and origins of funds that are being used to buy food parcels for the poor.
His argument was that if that was not done, politicians would become susceptible to capture by powerful business interests.

To cut that umbilical cord and promote transparency, Tau wanted Parliament to come up with a new law that would force politicians to declare the source of their funds.
That was quite a persuasive argument.
The MPs however argued that Lesotho already had other legal instruments in place to fight corruption and promote transparency.

We would like to believe that there is merit in Tau’s argument.
One of the biggest challenges facing Lesotho is the issue of corruption perpetrated by powerful individuals within the business sector.
These businessmen have over time cultivated close connections with powerful politicians.

It is common knowledge that we have a cabal of powerful Chinese businessmen who have captured virtually every other politician in Lesotho.
Having captured the politicians, the Chinese are able to exert their massive influence behind the scenes to win lucrative government tenders.
The story of John Xie is a classic case in point.

As adviser to former prime minister Thomas Thabane, John became an untouchable individual within Lesotho, winning substantial government contracts.
It is a well-known fact that John was among the biggest funders of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and every other party that matters in Lesotho.

He also “helped” every other key politician in Lesotho.
But John, like many of his ilk, was not doing this for charity; he did so with a “legitimate expectation” that he would one day be eventually rewarded handsomely.
That, to us, was Tau’s point. What he was saying was that every key donor to a political party must be known so that there is complete transparency.

Without a full disclosure of who is donating what, Lesotho risks creating monsters who become too powerful as to dictate policy to the government.
Such individuals would eventually dictate who wins which lucrative government tender in Lesotho.
In shooting down the motion, the Democratic Congress (DC)’s MP, Motlalentoa Letsosa, argued that there were already other legislative frameworks to deal with such issues.

He cited the Money Laundering Act and the Independent Electoral Commission Act which he said guide the interactions between politicians and the public.
However, the question that must be addressed is: to what extent are such laws being used to clamp down such rogue practices?
If the laws are already there, why haven’t we seen politicians being taken to task for violating such laws?

How many of our MPs are aware of the pitfalls in sourcing donations from powerful businessmen who expect something in return? If they are aware, why are they still continuing to do so?
This is no small matter for Lesotho. That is because the issue of donations and vote-buying go right to the integrity of our electoral system.

It is precisely for these reasons that we expect a much more robust application of the law to ensure fairness within our electoral system.

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