One ‘Ministry of Justice’ suffices

In one of his cabinet reshuffles after assuming the reins of power, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, in his wisdom, created two ministries basically dealing with the same subject matter of Justice.

The first is the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services under Mophato Monyake.

The second is the Ministry of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights under the stewardship of Advocate Haae Phoofolo (K.C).

From the onset, we found this fragmentation of the various aspects of justice matters to be totally unsatisfactory and incomprehensible.

But, more importantly, from the practical reality experienced thus far, it can be argued that this fragmentation is unnecessary, unsustainable and untenable.

It must be acknowledged that it’s never easy cobbling portfolios for a coalition government due to the empirical need to accommodate all and sundry.

But for a poor country like ours, frugality and thrift are key existential values that should underpin our political ethos; coalition or no coalition.

We don’t need two ministers to do the same thing, lest one spends his time twiddling his fingers.

Countless established democracies have one broad ministry of justice tasked with the administration of justice in any given country.

The same largely pertains in our sole neighbour South Africa even though a separate ministry of correctional services has been retained there, and rightly so due to the sheer enormity of crime in that country and its ever bulging prisons with tens of thousands of inmates.

Elsewhere in many other democracies, correctional services is conjoined to any security cluster portfolio which also oversees the police and in some instances the army.

The three strands of law, constitutional affairs and human rights that define Advocate Phoofolo’s portfolio fall within the ambit of Justice.

Yet we have a separate ministry of Ministry of Justice under Monyake’s wings and vice-versa.

In this clumsy arrangement, conflict becomes inevitable.

We have already seen this in the conflicting statements that have emanated from the two ministers over the Lehlohonolo Scott “arrest” affair.

The inevitable question to ask is: who is responsible for the administration of justice in this country between Monyake and Phoofolo?

Using the Scott issue as an example, the question to be asked is: between them who should initiate extradition proceedings on behalf of Lesotho in the first place?

Is it Monyake under his Justice emblem or Phoofolo under his law and human rights ambit?

Who should ideally represent Lesotho at any foreign gatherings to discuss human rights and justice and, if needs be, to speak on behalf of this country regarding the ubiquitous international covenants on human rights and justice?

In the final analysis, who does what under these portfolios?

It does not help in our case that Monyake, an engineer by training and experience, has proved to be thoroughly incompetent over the subject matter he is supposed to preside over.

We now know that his unsubstantiated claims of Scott’s arrest could have been a figment of  a very fertile imagination.

But his boisterous claims that Lesotho’s most wanted criminal would be home to face the music in “two weeks” exemplified a man completely out of his depth in so far as justice and law issues are concerned.

Based on our experiences, we implore Thabane and any future Prime Ministers to create one Justice Ministry, tasked with overseeing the administration of justice and promotion of human rights in this country, and under the stewardship of a competent lawyer.

The current fragmented arrangement is absolutely unnecessary and it is not surprising that many Basotho don’t understand who does what between Monyake and Phofoolo and who is ultimately accountable for the administration of justice in this country.

Lesotho simply has no resources for a bloated cabinet in which lines of responsibilities are blurred and unnecessary duplication of ministerial responsibilities is tolerated.

Comments are closed.