Home Comment Editorial Comment 10/08/23

Editorial Comment 10/08/23

by Lesotho Times
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We cannot afford more delays

LESOTHO’s reforms process that has been moving at a snail’s pace could be delayed by yet another blow, if the Constitutional Court upholds activist and MISA-Lesotho Chairperson Kananelo Boloetse’s argument that parliament cannot be recalled from its winter recess to transact business relating to the revival of the Omnibus Bill.

Parliament has been recalled from its winter recess to meet on Monday 14th of August to deliberate over and pass the Omnibus Bill Mr Boloetse’s argument is that parliament cannot resuscitate Bills that were declared dead by the constitutional court judgment of September 25, 2022 which ruled that the recall of the 10th Parliament that same month was null and void as the Omnibus Bill that was the cause for the recall, had collapsed with the dissolution of parliament in July of the same year.

Mr Boloetse is not only against the Omnibus Bill being revived, but has also pointed to the December 8, 2022 passage of Bills that had collapsed with the 10 th Parliament that included the Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho II Authority Bill, 2022; Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho Authority (Winding up and Repeal) Bill, 2022; Harmonisation of the Rights of Customary Widows with Legal Capacity of Married Persons Bill, 2022; Counter Domestic Violence Bill, 2022; and the Specified Offices Defined Contribution Pension Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

He wants all the Bills that collapsed with the dissolution of the 10th Parliament to be declared dead, and for the process of drafting new Bills to start from scratch.

This is yet another unnecessary delay for the reforms’ implementation.

This means Basotho’s hopes for the long-awaited implementation of reforms which were pinned on the recall of parliament for the special meeting on Monday to transact reforms related business, could be crushed once again.

Hopes crashed last week when Speaker of the National Assembly Tlohang Sekhamane swiftly withdrew Circular No. 3 of 2023, following complaints from the opposition. This after Official Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mathibeli Mokhothu, interrogated the nature and content of the circular, complaining that it was flawed in nature and wanting in content.

In his letter to Mr Sekhamane dated 31 st of July 2022, Mr Mokhothu asserted that the circular titled ‘Special Meeting of the Eleventh Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho’, did not comply with provisions of the legislator’s Standing Orders, such as observing the 14 days’ notice for parliament’s recall and that it did not specify the ‘nature’ of the business to be transacted.

The recall of parliament was for a ‘Special Meeting of the Eleventh Parliament of Lesotho’ from its mandatory winter recess to serve the purpose of transacting reforms-related business and pass the Omnibus Constitutional Bill, 2022.

But this latest development suggests the special meeting that was scheduled for next week Monday to pass the Omnibus Bill ahead of the 17th of August 2023 crunch 43rd Ordinary Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders, could be postponed or scrapped altogether depending on what the courts decide.

The tragedy here is that Lesotho is expected to table its report on progress as regards reforms before the summit, and so eager is SADC that a fortnight ago, it deployed its Panel of Elders chaired by former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, to gain details of government’s roadmap and plan for implementing the reforms.

While it is commendable that Mr Boloetse has raised legitimate points, it cannot be denied that further delays compromise the reforms process.

It is also worth mentioning the delays further portray Prime Minister Sam Matekane as unreliable, after he promised shortly after assuming office in October 2022, that his government would ensure that Lesotho would never again appear on the SADC agenda as the region’s prodigal child.

Hope in the reforms process was restored when parliament’s recall was announced, especially when it came after a prolonged stalemate between government and the opposition.

At this juncture, the onus is on the court to ensure that the process is not compromised further. Parliament must be recalled as soon as yesterday, pass the Omnibus Bill and ensure that Lesotho meets the SADC deadline. We cannot afford more delays.


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