SADC gives Lesotho ultimatum to submit progress report

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Bongiwe Zihlangu

LESOTHO has been given an ultimatum to submit a reforms progress report to SADC facilitator, Cyril Ramaphosa, by 14 August 2022.

A Senator who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity said His Majesty King Letsie III this week hosted a delegation from Mr Ramaphosa at the Royal Palace in Matsieng where this message was conveyed.

“Yes, there was a meeting, albeit an informal one, between the King and a delegation from the SADC Facilitator. The delegation informed the King that Lesotho should submit a report on the progress made on the reforms bill, otherwise there would be consequences,” he said.

The delegation also ordered Lesotho to provide a draft of amendments of the Constitutional Omnibus Bill, 2022.

The Senator said the delegation also reminded His Majesty of the SADC Summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 17 August 2022 where Mr Ramaphosa is expected to appraise the regional meeting on Lesotho’s progress on the reforms.

He said while he was not privy to all the details of the meeting, he was of the opinion that the delegation visited the King as a damage control measure by Mr Ramaphosa.

“Remember, Lesotho has been berated before for dragging its feet on the reforms and Ramaphosa took the heat. He has to present a progress report on the country’s reforms at the SADC meeting next week in the DRC.”

He said the delegation had to nudge Lesotho well ahead of the summit to remind the country of the need to save South Africa “any embarrassment”.

The visit was also aimed at persuading the King to push the government and the 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly to expedite amendments to the Omnibus Bill, 2022 and Amendments to the Electoral Act, ahead of parliament reconvening.

Civil society sources told the Lesotho Times that Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu and Law and Justice Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane and other stakeholders met this week to discuss a document compiled by 14 parties represented in parliament.

The document contains 17 amendments made by the stakeholders, they said.

“The stakeholders reached consensus on 12 recommendations and were split on four. They disagreed on one.”

A source said the parties agreed to have King Letsie III as the Commander in Chief of the Lesotho Defence Force. However, they rejected the impeachment of the prime minister by parliament as had earlier been proposed.

His Majesty is today expected to meet with the Council of State ahead of the anticipated reconvening of parliament next week.

“His Majesty is supposed to meet with the Council of State tomorrow (later today) to present the document. If he is convinced that it is in order, then it will be smooth sailing with the Council. We don’t think there will be much opposition,” the source said.

King Letsie III disbanded parliament at midnight on 13 July 2022. This after the expiry of its five-year term of office.

The dissolution of parliament came while the Senate was busy debating the Omnibus Bill, 2022.

The source said the stakeholders spent a long time working on the document, which was then passed on to the legal division of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

It is now expected to be translated into legal jargon before it is given the King to present to the Council of State.

The Council is expected to approve the document before the possible reopening of parliament next week, the source said.

“We don’t know for sure when parliament will reconvene but by the look of it, Monday is a possibility. It is expected that parliament will require at most three to four days to work on the amendments and approve them formally in preparation for submission for Royal Ascent. But the Council does not need a long time because they are already familiar with the amendments.”

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