Lesotho’s feuding government parties have missed their self-imposed deadline to sign a new amended agreement today, aimed at saving their coalition from total collapse.
The revised agreement would now be signed in two weeks’ time, assuming the three parties find each other and agree on a uniform set of amendments to the original 2012 Coalition Agreement (CA) on which they formed a new government to replace the Pakalitha Mosisili regime.
Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing said last night the postponement was essential to allow the findings of a study tour he led to New Zealand last week to be discussed and incorporated into any amended deal.
Thesele ‘Maseribane — coordinator of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JMIC) tasked with overseeing the coalition partnership — told a news conference held in Maseru a fortnight ago that the proposed amendment to the initial CA had already been drafted and, among others, cites the reasons which could have led to the parties’ fallout and mechanisms to be used to sustain the administration going forward.
Chief ‘Maseribane, who is also the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), one of the parties in the tripartite government, which also comprises the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), further said the draft amendments had since been tabled before the government leaders for analysis and later referred to their respective parties for further scrutiny.
“We expect that by 8 July, the draft document should have been assessed by all the relevant parties, for tabling before the coalition leaders and signing on 10 July (today),” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
But ABC and BNP officials interviewed last week hinted their parties would reject the proposals, which were reportedly drafted by Mr Metsing because they were in favour of the LCD. The LCD had sparked the fallout between the parties after accusing ABC leader, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of not consulting his fellow leaders when making key governance decisions.
In the draft, Mr Metsing had proposed a raft of changes, among them the lifting of parliament’s suspension, whose nine-month prorogation was supposed to end on 27 February 2015 — and which was one of the decisions he said Dr Thabane had made without consulting him and Chief ‘Maseribane.
However, Mr Metsing told journalists last night that the New Zealand report on how a coalition government should function in a Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) electoral model, which Lesotho adopted in 2002, had not yet been finalised, hence the postponement of the signing of the amended agreement.
Mr Metsing further said the postponement would allow the three political parties to continue working on their submissions to be considered for inclusion in the amended agreement.
“The mission, which went to New Zealand, discovered that a coalition government is built on the basis of faith, trust and honesty than on monitoring strictures,” Mr Metsing said.
The LCD leader also said the delegation focused on learning “processes that should be followed during the transition period after an election; how to sustain an effective coalition government; how to develop a politically-neutral and an independent and effective public service, and how to position parliament for an MMP electoral model.”
Mr Metsing also said the major issues discussed in New Zealand were the need to have clear laws that regulate the transfer of power from one government to another, and how such a new administration should be formed and take oath of office.
“There should be an agreement on what legal timeframe the political parties must be given to form a government after an election as opposed to the existing period in Lesotho (of 14 days) that has been realised is not enough for parties to form a stable government,” Mr Metsing said.
The deputy premier also said the delegates learnt how politicians should interact and relate to the public service “in a democratic dispensation without politicising it”.
The different functions and responsibilities of the disciplined forces were also part of the study tour, Mr Metsing said.
“We were also given lessons on the best practices of drawing a coalition government agreement and the value of such a document on governance issues.
“We also learnt how to implement decisions by the cabinet and how ministers should report on what their respective departments are doing.
“Again, the delegation learned about the value of a coalition government in New Zealand and how the country has been running its coalitions,” he said.
Mr Metsing further said another issue raised was Lesotho should have strong laws regarding the filing of a parliamentary motion-of-no-confidence against the prime minister and his government.
He added: “We also talked about having laws that would regulate floor-crossing in parliament from one party to another.
“The need for constitutional amendments and reforms necessitated by the adoption of the MMP and also strengthening the Independent Electoral Commission not only during the election period but even after elections, were also discussed during the tour.
“Also, we touched on the need to have legislation that regulates the formation of alliances of political parties in parliament and their dissolution. The New Zealanders also said we need to have a Parliamentary Service Commission as one of the pillars of democratic rule.”
The Minister of Justice, Motlohi Maliehe, who was also part of the New Zealand trip, also told yesterday’s press conference that from the onset, it was evident that no one in the coalition government understood how such an alliance should function.
“We failed to have regular progress monitoring meetings as the three parties that formed the coalition after the 26 May 2012 election, to assess our progress and hold dialogues on how to chart the way forward.
“It is only if we keep each other in check and build unity amongst ourselves and trust, that we would prosper,” said Mr Maliehe, who is the ABC chairperson.
Mr Maliehe further said it was understandable that political parties need to keep their identity even after forming a coalition government and can criticise each other during their rallies.
The BNP deputy leader, Joang Molapo, who also went on the New Zealand tour, said the delegates had learned that the prime minister would have to act with the interests of all coalition parties in mind.
“Of course, there would always be the need for a deciding voice when need arises,” said Mr Molapo, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs.
On his part, the Minister of Development Planning, Moeketsi Majoro, said under the New Zealand coalition government, the prime minister exercises his powers based on clear constitutional guidelines.
“There is a clear agreement which limits the powers of the prime minister and when to consult the coalition partners. There are also clear procedures on what the prime minister can do without having to consult and notify his partners,” Dr Majoro said.
The minister also said the delegates discovered during the New Zealand tour that parties maintain their identities on policy issues regarding their election manifestos, even after forming coalition governments.
Pontšo Sekatle, who represented the official opposition Democratic Congress (DC) on the tour, also said the visit had clearly shown that Lesotho needs constitutional reforms.
“However, we cannot say what exact amendments should be made at the moment but the relevant stakeholders would be doing so.
“We should also be vigilant that we are building our country not only for this coalition government but also for the next coming coalition government,” Dr Sekatle said.
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