Last minute understanding between the lower house and the upper house of Lesotho’s parliament allowed the adoption of national reforms laws in the evening of August 29, at the brink of closure of parliament.
Aug. 30, 2022
5 min read
Parliament adopt reforms laws, but not without drama
Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, minister of law and justice
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Following a long debate on the 11th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2022 and the National Assembly Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2022 the six days sitting of houses adopted the bills together with the amendments made before the houses on Monday evening, paving the way for the parliament to adopt them for the relevant laws.
The parliament sat from August 24 until August 29 when it was declared closed for good until after general elections on October 7.
This while cases challenging the legality of the recall of dissolved parliament were still pending in the constitutional court and there are still those who believe the 1oth parliament only failed to adopt the bills due to its inefficiency.
While the amendment to the constitution will allow some changes of constitution sections, one of the expected changes through the adopted bills in the electoral law is the formulation of the proportional representation seats allocated to political parties, which would now be based on election results percentages per party and not per party leader’s preferences anymore.
While persuading the Senate to adopt the bills, the Minister of Law and Justice Advocate (Adv) Lekhetho Rakuoane said the Constitution Bill was intended to amend the Constitution of Lesotho 1993, to give effect to the resolutions of the Multi-stakeholder National Dialogue on comprehensive national reforms as espoused in the Plenary II Report.
He said the Electoral Bill was intended to be passed by the parliament before its dissolution in mid-July, 2022 in order to guarantee a peaceful elections as well as peace, stability and efficiency in the delivery of services post 2022 general elections.
He explained that the Omnibus Bill was a result of consultations and debates among members of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) and a wide number of stakeholders, it makes Chieftainship a fundamental part in the development, and provides for the basic principles in the role it plays in local and national development.
Adv. Rakuoane indicated that the Bill provides that the government of Lesotho consists of both the national and local government, according to the bill, the local government consists of councils established at districts, city and municipal levels and district councils by an Act of Parliament.
The 10th Parliament's five year term came to an end on July 13 before passing into laws bills intended to legislate national reforms. Lesotho adopted a national project of reforming the country, the process which was initiated through public opinion, with the aim to review the constitution, promulgate laws that are intended to reform the country’s politicised security, the seemingly non-independent justice system, the unstable parliament and the public sector as well as introducing reforms to the media and national economy.
When justifying the recall of parliament, which some members of the public blame on members of parliament for failing to execute their duties on time, deputy prime minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, also leader of the second biggest coalition partner, Democratic Congress (DC), said the delay was due to the fact that members of parliament needed to be cautious when dealing with a sensitive issue such as the proposed Eleventh Amendment Bill to the constitution in order to avoid committing mistakes which might cost the country later.
The parliament of Lesotho in full sitting
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Kananelo Boloetse, a veteran journalist
King Letsie III had through a state of emergency summoned the parliament that was dissolved on July 13 to come and finalise the bills considered pertinent to the national reforms such as the constitution and electoral laws before general elections on October 7.
The Senate had a raised a concern and stated its reservation as to why the lower house had been selective on bills to be adopted by the state of emergency parliament while some were left out. However the lower house had argued that due to pressure of time only bills directly relevant before elections had to be given a priority.
While expressing his opinion on his twitter, Chief Joang Molapo, an opposition member of parliament has put blame squarely at the doorstep of prime minister Majoro and his deputy Mokhothu for the failure of parliament to finish its job on its scheduled term period.
“ABC (All Basotho Convention) as a party stopped caring a long time ago about the responsibility of governing Lesotho. Since 2019 internal fights have always been more important. They effectively abdicated the responsibility of governing Lesotho to DC when they set up this current coalition in June 2020. Prime Minister Majoro has been happy to be a silent supporter and facilitator for the DC agenda. He stopped caring a long time ago about using his time in office to advocate for ABC policies or trying to improve anything about this country.
“Since after the ABC leadership race he's been doing nothing except counting the days until his first pension cheque arrives. All DPM Mokhothu is interested in is the election campaign and his own quest to become Prime Minister,” he tweeted.
In his court challenge of the legality of the sitting of parliament, Kananelo Boloetse, a veteran journalist, appealed to the constitutional court to halt the King from recalling parliament as the reasons for opening of the parliament are not convincing, especially for the Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to have declared state of emergency in order to facilitate the recall of dissolved parliament – the first action in the history of Lesotho. He pleaded with the court to declare the recall of parliament unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
A member of parliament and leader of Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP),
Tefo Mapesela, boycotted the sitting of parliament session faulting it of being illegal.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) branch in Lesotho has also filed a case challenging the legality of the state of emergency under which the dissolved parliament was recalled, and demand that it should be declared null and void.
MISA is a media organisation advocating for media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information in southern Africa, with national chapters in the SADC region.