NRA infighting will only derail the reforms

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HOW much longer will this country continue to suffer due to politicians and public officials who put their own selfish, parochial interests above the nation?

We ask this question in light of the disturbing reports of infighting within the National Reforms Authority (NRA).

As we report elsewhere in this edition, the body which is tasked with spearheading the implementation of the multi-sector reforms has been split into two warring factions.

A faction, which is said to be backed by Thaba-Bosiu Principal Chief, Khoabane Theko, is said to be plotting the ouster of the NRA chairperson, Pelele Letsoela.

Mr Letsoela is accused of several indiscretions including his alleged attempts to push through constitutional amendments to reduce the number of electoral constituencies from 80 to 60.

Should the proposed constitutional amendments be passed, the number of proportional representation (PR) seats will be increased from 40 to 60 to accommodate more female legislators and representatives of other vulnerable sections of society like the disabled.

Last month, Ms Letsoela said the 2019 second plenary session of the national stakeholders’ dialogue had mandated the NRA to ensure that women and other disadvantaged groups were well represented in the National Assembly.

He said this could only be achieved by reducing the number of constituencies from 80 to 60 and increasing the PR seats from 40 to 60. He said the new PR seats would then be given to the disadvantaged groups to ensure they are well represented in parliament.

He even attacked the Lesotho Times for simply publishing a news story wherein some analysts criticised the proposals on the grounds that they were not the best way of achieving the empowerment of women.

The analysts’ misgivings have now been vindicated by the anti-Letsoela faction which insists that the proposals were his own personal project which did not enjoy the widespread support of the plenary II participants. The faction alleges that the proposal to reduce the electoral constituencies is being pushed by Mr Letsoela and other smaller parties because they know they are unlikely to win any of the contested seats. The more the proportional seats, the more their chances of making it into parliament through the PR system, the faction alleges.

The faction also accuses Mr Letsoela of purging those he perceives as his opponents. It accuses him of instigating the removal of Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho chairperson, Nkoale Tšoana, from the post of NRA Media Committee chairperson.

It is not our intention to get into the intricacies of the infighting and apportion blame or praise.

We wish to point out that the infighting is not in the best interests of the country.

This country has suffered for far too long due to the perennial instability. The constitutional, security sector, media, judicial and governance reforms that were recommended by SADC in 2016 are our best hope of achieving lasting peace and stability.

The reforms ought to have been implemented by May 2019 but that deadline was missed due to the bickering between the then government and opposition.

Meanwhile, the country has paid a heavy price for the failure to end the instability. Foreign direct investment has been hard to come by as investors have unsurprisingly chosen to stay away from our unstable country.

The resulting poor economic performance has led to joblessness and widespread poverty.

No wonder our jobless and poverty-stricken youths are forever restless and always threatening protests to bring down the government.

Crime continues to escalate partly due to the high unemployment.

We surely cannot go on like this. The sooner we implement the reforms, the higher our chances of attracting much needed investment. But we can only do it if we have a united NRA working selflessly for the national good. We appeal to the NRA to desist from their factional fights and focus on the big picture.

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