TRC plots reforms indaba


  • As process romps to a stalemate
  • Government, opposition hold conflicting views on way forward



MASERU – Plans are afoot for a serious private conversation between government and the opposition bloc over the reforms process, with human rights group Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) attempting to rein them in and defuse an imminent stalemate, Public Eye can reveal. The mulled meeting is pencilled for May 31, according to the paper’s findings, and is planned to explore all trajectories towards the implementation of the ongoing multi-sectoral national reforms which are in danger of regressing but in the main to shepherd the two opposing sides to a consensus.  When Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane set up his new government in November 2022 he pledged to meet rising public concerns, and those of international partners, for faithful execution of the reforms process whose endorsement by parliament was slowly creeping into uncertainty, and made reforms part of his agenda.

And while it is likely for the reforms to be implemented under a Matekane administration, a dramatic shift in the approach of the opposition bloc towards the process appears to be throwing spanners in the government’s reforms agenda process. It is an agenda to whose end government on Monday this week engaged with the opposition bloc to report back on progress on the reforms as well as making a commitment to see the process to finality.

The meeting that ended in a stalemate. TRC director, Tsikoane Peshoane, confirmed plans for the May 31 meeting to this paper yesterday indicating, however, that the rights group is not setting up the platform in a mediatory role. “We simply advised that the government must consider a consensus, and that there should be what is called a consensus building. “They agreed that it is imperative that if they want the reforms to continue, it would be wise that they communicate with the opposition. It was a very informal engagement that they appreciated of course,” he said

As a result, he added, TRC has a formal interaction of the opposition and government on May 31, the reason being that “Issues talked about behind the scenes tend to be misinterpreted so we are organising an event where we plan to invite the government and the opposition. We want them to tell us where the reforms are at, what challenges have been encountered, the progress made and the way forward.”

The TRC leader emphasised that his organisation wants to take this route for the sole reason that they do not have a significant role to play except that when they talk to the two sides as the TRC “they respect our authority as an organisation.”  Peshoane further revealed that the theme for the 31st meeting will be “Is Lesotho ready to deliver a free and fair elections within the given state of reforms.” The reason the reforms and the upcoming local elections are mixed, he said, is because the fundamental question they want answered is whether the government wants to deliver the elections under the new dispensation after the reforms or will go to the elections with the old legal framework. “If we do not go with the old legal framework, are we saying we want to postpone those elections?”

He reiterated that consensus building is imperative for the success of the reforms and that caution must be taken that the reforms do not become a project of the political class, because some politicians insist that they want the Omnibus Bill to be passed, to be reinstated in its original state when it was presented to the public. He added that it is not about whether they are right or wrong. “The government proposed or are planning to approach the reforms using a different model or approach. They want to separate the simple majority, two thirds and referendum; they want to approach them separately so maybe they are trying to rectify a mistake that was observed by the clauses in the Omnibus Bill. They shouldn’t have gotten to the Royal Assent before they were subjected to the referendum.

“However, we need that consensus building to understand and appreciate the government’s approach,” he noted. 

Speaking at a briefing ahead of the Monday meeting at the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre, Deputy Prime Minister Justice Nthomeng Majara, traced government’s journey to thrash out the reforms process with relevant stakeholders, especially the opposition bloc, to February this year.  She said this has been a rocky excursion, with stakeholders complicated groups to work with, citing in particular legislators, the judiciary and Senators. Justice Majara, however, pointed out that several concessions were made.

While much ground has been covered in consultative meetings with stakeholders, the deputy prime minister pointed out that they were yet to sit with the College of Chiefs, which proposed a meeting before the reinstatement of the Omnibus Bill is debated in parliament. This done, Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane’s administration wants sections of the Omnibus Bill requiring a simple majority to be plucked out of the Bill and passed separately, with those elements that require a two-thirds majority and a referendum to subsequently be put before parliament.  

But the opposition bloc maintains the reforms should be adopted by parliament as a package, and not in segments as proposed. Speaking to Public Eye following the Monday meeting the Leader of Opposition and Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said despite this difference in mulled approaches his party and the entire opposition bloc supports the adoption of the entire reforms because of their importance – though he sensed government reluctance to pass the whole reforms package. He said the process was bound to bring about sustainability and change in the public service, law enforcement agencies, the courts of law as well as parliament in many ways.

On the other hand, Popular Front for Democracy leader, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, noted that the success of the reforms was not the responsibility of legislators alone but for the Basotho as a whole. He said enactment of the Omnibus Bill spelled sustainability and consistency in the country. He also said that their varied approaches to the process only displays the opposition’s quest to eliminate incidents from the country’s history that could reverse the gains made and lead the country back into the abyss of political and security instability. He said what they want is a total overhaul of the constitution.

“We have to rationalise all requests for amendments to existing laws, while also considering financial implications. Basotho want a lot of things which they do not even have money to pay for. I do not think it will be that easy,” he noted.

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, said in a separate interview that the reforms process is bound to render Lesotho peaceful and its economy sustainable. He appealed for compromises when dealing with this delicate matter the government needs opposition support to acquire the two-thirds majority for particular sections of the Omnibus Bill – which he noted the prime minister does not wield in the National Assembly. Mofomobe argued that the current 1993 Constitution still carries vast laws which need to be included in the Omnibus Bill. He emphasised, however, that the law is outdated. Speaking on specific media-related reforms Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter, national director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said it would be a relief if the reforms would pass through the parliament, including a every detail that Basotho have requested.

He indicated that MISA reckons that the government is on the verge of reinstating the Omnibus Bill that was left behind by the 10th parliament, which holds most things that the media fraternity has sought to have removed. He indicated that since the reforms were introduced in 2013 there have been a lot of things that MISA has proposed on behalf of media, which include the creation of a media council to regulate the media in Lesotho since it has no form of regulation.

He added that the only regulator in Lesotho is the Lesotho Communications Authority which in particular regulates only the broadcasting sector and telecommunications. “The other proposal was the Advertising Act, which will allow the media to advertise with government without being told that they are being biased. We have realised that in this last region of the Omnibus Bill, everything that we had proposed has been removed. If the Omnibus Bill passes through parliament without being revised, we would have a lot of problems ahead.

“I believe even other sectors are facing the same problems. We want the reforms to be passed to improve the situation of the media sector in the country, but if the Bill is passed without being revised I believe this will not in any way contribute to the improvements of the livelihood of the media sector in Lesotho,” he said.

Lesotho has had five governments in 10 years and every time a government collapses, the reform programme was dealt a body blow. And this led to a widespread perception locally and internationally that the country must reform its political system to overcome recurrent political instability, where successive governments have failed to bring about the necessary changes.

This while the National Reforms Authority on February 24 issued a statement indicating government’s view that they will not reinvent the wheel on the reforms trajectory. Instead, they would build on what has already been developed to ensure that the country sails through the reforms journey.

The government has since consulted sectors including political parties in parliament and outside parliament, civil society, youth, women, cultural organisations, veterans and the media. The government has also met former prime ministers and former deputy prime ministers.

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