Nothing happens by osmosis indeed!

IN this article, I write as a former Clerk and not in any other capacity.

A story I saw in the 22 June edition of the Sunday Times touched me. It makes mention of the death of former South African Secretary of parliament Michael Coetzee.
That article repeats a saying for which Mr Coetzee was known for that: “Things don’t happen by osmosis. Someone has to make them happen.”

According to the paper he was also known for saying, “if only every government institution could operate like parliament with rules and systems, South Africa would be a better place”.
Clerkly speaking, this is true in a parliamentary setting where there are clear roles for relevant actors to play.

The second quote reminds me of a similar wise saying by an Honorary Advisor to the Speaker of the House of the People (Lok Sabha) which is the National Assembly of India, who was attached to its Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training.

Being a seasoned former MP, she assertively stated to us, during the 20th Parliamentary Internship Programme in 2004, that: “If all institutions of India were as efficient as the secretariats of Parliament, India could be a Heaven (on earth).”

The central issue here is the expression by the now late Mr Coetzee that things do not happen by osmosis.
The “someone” he refers to is every one of us whereever we are as individuals.
A secretary or clerk of parliament is expected to clerkly set some fire alight, as both an individual and facilitator.
Someone else has to pick that kindled spark for the fire to spread. If someone fails to catch that fire, the originator will have only used bullets of wax which do not make a kill – nothing will happen.
The South African Parliament had such talents as Mr Coetzee’s and his predecessors like Mfejana.

Our neighbour became democratic after Lesotho, and the 8th Parliament of Lesotho sent delegations of MPs to learn the workings of the RSA National parliament and provincial legislatures.
That ought not to be, if fires which were sparked clerkly before were to be revised and assessed.
Lesotho is a classic example of a situation where clerkly efforts were doused, probably unwittingly.
Of late, our weekly papers carried stories about the Senate Building which is yet to be constructed and, recently, a High Court ruling against re-tendering for its belated construction.

This is a typical example of failure in the initial planning/design stages, local brainstorming and negotiations with the donor (China). Lesotho now has to pay the price.
The result of failing to make things happen, then, is the imposing structure on top of Mpilo Hill, housing a spacious National Assembly Chamber, offices and other facilities but without a Senate Component, unfortunately.

This story is not just for the purpose of expressing a loss through the death of Mr Coetzee of South Africa.
It is intended to give a few lessons:
Firstly, if the chain of command experiences lapses, progress will be retarded.
Secondly, for Lesotho Parliament to grow, every actor in the chain of command has to ensure they make things happen.
Thirdly, it ought to urge us, as Parliament, to introspect and see how we fare in relation to other public services.

Someone has to get to the parliamentary reforms process which started in 2004 to be on its feet again as it won’t come about by osmosis or through calls over the many radio stations and weeklies Lesotho now has.
Let us make things happen and stop talking about them.

May the soul of Mr Coetzee rest in peace; so as that of Kenyan National Assembly Clerk Samuel Waweru Ndindiri, to whom the Lesotho Parliament sent a high powered delegation on a study tour specifically to learn the workings of the east African country’s “Rainbow” parliament and government.
If Mr Ndindiri was still around, he probably would have made a call to laugh at me as Lesotho muddles along with its version of a coalition arrangement.
We still have those who went there to learn. Things ought to happen better and in the interest of the nation and our beloved Lesotho. No Mosotho ought to stand in the way of democratic dynamics in a House of the 8th Parliament.

It is doubtful if the much talked about tour of New Zealand will be fruitful.
Instead, something else might be learnt: The value of a well considered and strong parliamentary secretariat; as it happened to be during the Kenya tour where the second Deputy Clerk made mention of “A wise Minister” in his briefing of delegates from Lesotho.
This is mentioned to flag the need to separate administrative and procedural chores of a parliament –– for things to happen as desired.
Powers that belong to parliament need competent staff in both fronts of parliamentary work for all things to happen.

  • Honourable Makhabane Maluke is the Bobatsi Number 80 Constituency Member of Parliament and belongs to the main opposition Democratic Congress.

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