MASERU – A youth group, whose leaders include former journalist Motsamai Mokotjo, is planning a protest march to pressure the parliament to drop the controversial M5 000 fuel allowances for MPs.
The youths, calling themselves Concerned Young People but with faces of the #BachaShutDown ringleaders in the front, say they will march from
Moshoeshoe I Statue to parliament next Friday.
This group of youth leaders gained fame when their #BachaShutDown protest march was violently disrupted by the police in November last year.
At the time they were petitioning Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s government to address youth unemployment.
In their letter dated August 10 the youth stold Majoro that they have decided to object to the MPs’ M5 000 allowances each by marching in town.
Mokotjo said they plan to write and petition Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu as a leader of the House, Finance Minister Thabo Sophonea and Speaker Sephiri Motanyane.
“Finance Minister said the country is broke, but they still approved the fuel allowances,” Mokotjo said.
“At this moment we (are) opposing these allowances by way of marching to parliament as the only surest way to make our voices heard,” he said.
Mokotjo said the MPs who do not want to receive the money should write to the accountant general instead of merely going to the radio stations.
“It is unfortunate that the people trusted to run the country decide to reward themselves with the allowances while turning a blind eye to the nation’s financial crisis,” he said.
“People have lost their jobs and their kids cannot go to school.”
He said they understand that it is legal “but on the other hand it is immoral and unethical”.
“They are out of touch with the realities on the ground,” he said about the MPs.
He said MPs should stop claiming they need the allowances to help fund funerals in their constituencies.
“That is not their job, they have to allocate funds, we do not need them to bury our dead,” he said.
He also said it is shocking that the MPs were getting more benefits when their counterparts in other countries have cut their salaries because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The youth’s letter stated that on March 23 they released a statement in which they “condemned in the strongest of terms the adoption of Members of Parliament Regulations of 2020 which entitled legislators to M5 000 monthly tax-free petrol allowances”.
They noted that this statement was followed by a letter dated April 27 to Speaker Motanyane requesting parliament to reverse these regulations as a matter of urgency.
On May 7 the group was informed by the Clerk of Parliament, Advocate Fine Maema, that Motanyane had received their letter and referred it to the relevant portfolio committee.
“While still awaiting communication from parliament, we learned with shock and disappointment that government has pushed forward and paid Members of Parliament their allowances,” the letter reads.
They said they are writing this letter to seek the government’s permission for a march to parliament next Friday to deliver their petition to Mokhothu.
“We request that this march should be exempt from the lockdown restrictions,” the letter reads.
They said they are entitled to the right to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
“All these freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Even during a global pandemic, the people still have rights and freedoms, the Constitution still applies and the government must follow it, Mokotjo said.