Basotho demand term limits for Prime Minister

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Herbert Moyo

MOST Basotho want the powers of the prime minister to be limited to just two terms in office. The majority also want the prime minister to be more accountable to parliament and to always obey court rulings and the country’s laws.

This and the fact that the majority of Basotho want the government to be accountable to the people, even if that limits its efficiency, are part of the latest findings by a leading research institute, Afrobarometer.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa.

The internationally acclaimed research institute also found that as the country embarks on the constitutional, security sector, governance, media and judicial reforms that were recommended by SADC in 2016, most Basotho want the information held by public officials to be made more accessible to the public.

Forty percent of those interviewed say they would have trouble obtaining information about the country’s development plans and even school budgets.

However, the major issue in the Afrobarometer research was that of the term of office of the prime minister. Currently, there is no limit to the tenure of the prime minister and the majority of respondents to the recent Afrobarometer survey say this must change.

“Six in 10 Basotho (62 percent) favour limiting the prime minister to a maximum of two terms in office,” Afrobarometer reported in its latest findings.

“(The majority of) Basotho support limits on executive power. Majorities say the prime minister should be accountable to parliament (62 percent) and must always obey laws and courts (86 percent).

“A majority (57 percent) of Basotho say it is more important that the government be accountable to the people than that it get things done and this is a modest decrease from 62 percent (who held this view) in 2014. However, four in 10 Basotho disagree, arguing that having an efficient government is more important, even if citizens have no influence over what it does.”

Afrobarometer found that the preference for accountability over efficiency was stronger among rural residents (59 percent), senior Basotho (64 percent), those without any formal education (61 percent) and poorer respondents (60 percent).

When asked who should hold the prime minister accountable for doing his job, Basotho divided the responsibility between other elected officials. Thirty eight percent said this should be done by parliament or community councils while 36 percent said the premier should be accountable to the electorate.

“Judicial oversight and controls are also important limits on executive powers in a democracy. Almost nine out of 10 Basotho (86 percent) share the view that the prime minister must always obey the laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong.

“This represents a 20-percentage-point increase from 66 percent who held this view in 2014. Conversely, the share of Basotho who feel that the prime minister, as the elected leader of the country, should not be bound by laws and courts dropped by about half to 12 percent,” Afrobarometer found.

The research institute also found that 57 percent of the respondents also demanded access to information as a way of ensuring political leaders and public officials were accountable to the populace.

The findings come at a time when Lesotho has begun processes that expected to culminate in the implementation of constitutional, security sector, media and governance reforms that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community in 2016.

It remains to be seen whether or not the issue of the term limits for the prime minister will be placed on the agenda for constitutional reform.

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