Phooko laments ‘missed reforms’
. . . as Commonwealth adviser concludes Lesotho mission
Billy Ntaote and Motsamai Mokotjo
Lesotho missed numerous “golden opportunities” to implement recommendations made in the New Zealand study tour report, according to Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) deputy leader Motloheloa Phooko.
Dr Phooko made the remark in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week following his meeting with Commonwealth Expert Adviser to Lesotho, Dr Rajen Prasad.
According to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s spokesperson, Motumi Ralejoe, Dr Prasad arrived in the country last Friday to conclude his three-year mission as the 53-nation bloc’s envoy to Lesotho.
Mr Ralejoe said during his visit, Dr Prasad met King Letsie III, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and opposition leaders, among them Dr Phooko.
The RCL deputy leader was part a 25-member delegation of politicians, senior civil servants and civil society representatives who visited New Zealand from 28 June to 5 July 2014 to study the country’s governance system.
After the tour, Dr Prasad compiled a report suggesting, among other issues, that Lesotho should depoliticise its civil service and undertake constitutional reforms.
According to Dr Phooko, Lesotho missed “numerous opportunities” to deepen democracy and enhance development by implementing the report’s recommendations.
“When we came back from the weeklong study tour, there was an understanding that the public service should be depoliticised, parliamentary reforms should be undertaken and constitutional reforms that would clearly stipulate how a transition in a post-election period is managed as well as how a coalition government can be formed,” he said.
“However, it is unfortunate that when the prorogation of parliament ended in 2014, we missed the first golden opportunity to implement the reforms.”
Dr Phooko said the current seven-party coalition government “abandoned” disregarded the report by politicising the public service.
“When the new government came in following the 28 February 2015 early polls, the reform process was not immediately implemented,” he said.
“Instead, we were shocked to see the politicisation of the public service continuing, with holders of statutory positions being fired and replaced by those sympathetic to the government.
“Basically, the recommendations of the New Zealand report were abandoned by the current government as well.”
Dr Phooko added: “We continue to be in the dark about what exactly is the way forward on the reform process. We have learnt that the government has been asking for assistance from the Germans and that they also want to visit Kenya to study how they implemented their constitutional reforms.
“These are all confusing developments as we have missed so many opportunities in the past and we continue to seek more assistance, yet we are doing nothing with regards to implementation.”
On his part, Basotho National Party spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe, said they told Dr Prasad that the removal of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli as army commander should rank highly among security sector reforms.
“We told him we were ready to assist the government in the reform process since it would be for the benefit of Basotho,” Mr Mofomobe said.
“We told him that the reform process should prioritise the ouster of Kamoli and his henchmen to create a conducive environment for the return of our leaders who have been in exile since May last year.
“Kamoli must go. The whole world has stated that he should not lead the LDF. The Americans said he was a polarising figure while the SADC Commission of Inquiry report also said as much.”
Commenting on the remarks, Mr Ralejoe said opposition leaders were entitled to their own opinion, adding the government had made “meaningful progress” in implementing reforms.
“The government is vigilantly working on implementing the reforms to bring lasting peace and stability in the country and has made meaningful progress,” he said.
“To show our sincerity, we have engaged a United Nations expert on the constitutional reform process and we will soon be holding public gatherings on the issue.
“The government is holding numerous meetings focusing on constitutional reforms, and it is a lengthy process. The New Zealand study tour report will be one of the documents that will be utilised.”
Mr Ralejoe said the reforms were in keeping with the ethos of the ruling alliance’s coalition agreement.
“It should be remembered that the coalition committed itself to be a reformist government in its agreement,” he said.
“The reform process is a journey we have already embarked on, and which we need to carefully navigate. Opportunities have not been missed since the implementation is a work-in-progress.”
In terms of security sector reform, Mr Ralejoe said the government had approached its Indian and South African (SA) counterparts for assistance from their respective militaries.
“The government has approached SA and India with regards to security reforms,” he said.
“However, I am not going to divulge the specifics of the arrangement. All I can tell you is that the Indian army already trains Lesotho Defence Force members.”