28 July 2017

Lesotho: A Call for Lesotho's Constitutional Reforms

Photo: GCIS
Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane (file photo).
opinion

SINCE independence in 1966, the Kingdom of Lesotho has experienced many political crises that have negatively impacted on the country's economic growth.

Lesotho has been dogged by poverty and hunger, endemic diseases, unemployment and corruption among other things.

Politicisation of the country's main institutions such as the civil service, security sector, judiciary and state-owned enterprises has been the order of the day.

This sad state of affairs continues to rear its ugly head more than half a century after independence.

The question is where the priorities of any incoming government should lie. Should the priority be to 'shake up' the civil service, security institutions, judiciary much to the neglect of the economic and social ills that continue to haunt this country?

Will government ever stop the shakeup in order to prioritise prosperity, stability, growth as well as ending all vices?

Only political will and commitment by all politicians can provide an enabling environment for all those things.

Constitutional Reforms

Following the Commonwealth-sponsored study tour to New Zealand by a government delegation, (composed mostly of parliamentarians, cabinet ministers, civil servants and excluding civil society and academics) and the SADC Commission's Phumaphi Report, a commitment was made that Lesotho would undertake constitutional reforms as a matter of urgency.

It is argued here that the only reforms worth undertaking would be those that would ensure that, the country enjoys peace and stability, respects the rule of law and fundamental human rights, good governance, transparency and accountability, economic growth, professionalisation of the civil service and the security institutions and efficient delivery of services devoid of corruption.

The government of the day should have sufficient courage to provide the platform for the reforms 'ship' without being its 'captain'.

In other words, the reforms must be driven by an autonomous body that would be accountable to parliament.

It is argued here that parliament should establish a Constitutional Reform Commission with its own secretariat.

Such a commission should comprise of commissioners who would be responsible for different clusters.

The suggestion here being that such clusters should be as follows:

Parliamentary Cluster.

This will be responsible for the review of the parliamentary processes and institutions.

Civil Service Cluster.

It will be responsible for the professionalisation of the civil service, including all the commissions charged with the selection and employment, such as the Public Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission and the Local Government Commission.

Defence and Security Cluster.

It will be responsible for the professionalisation of the defence and security institutions, covering recruitment and the selection and appointment of heads of these institutions.

Judiciary Cluster.

This will be responsible for the review of the appointments of the judges and all judicial officers, including the Judicial Service Commission as well as the entrenching of judicial independence and funding.

This list is not exhaustive but it is believed that these clusters would go a long way in ensuring that Lesotho moves forward in a positive way.

It is argued that the appointment of the heads of these clusters must not be based on 'political correctness' but on merit and competence.

The last segment is the servicing of the Commission. It is submitted that in order for the commissioners to function efficiently, a Commission Secretariat must be constituted.

Such a secretariat should be headed by a Chief Executive.

Some of the functions of the Secretariat would be to:

  •  Prepare the budget of the Commission,
  • Conduct research on behalf of the commissioners,
  • The day to day operations of the Commission,
  • Drafting reports for the commissioners,
  • Advising the commissioners,
  • Planning and arranging the activities of the commissioners.
  • Providing logistical support to the Commission

Conclusion.

It is time Lesotho moved in the right direction and be on the international radar for all the good reasons.

The international community has held steadfast in its call for constitutional reforms and some development partners have even threatened withdrawal or non-renewal of development grants if these reforms are not implemented.

It is not the view here that those reforms should be undertaken to satisfy the international community but that as a nation, we owe the reforms to ourselves.

It is this nation's responsibility to undertake the reforms for the benefit of this proud nation.

Government and parliament must seize this opportunity and guide this nation in the right direction to prosperity and peace with itself and its neighbour.

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