Parties, civic bodies rubbish 10th amendment Bill

STAFF REPORTER

Maseru – The proposal for the tenth amendment bill of the Constitution has been rubbished by both political parties and civil society as a ploy to undermine constitutionalism in Lesotho.

The Private Members Bill proposed by NIP leader Kimetso Mathaba and co-sponsored by, among others, Thabang Kholumo of the PFD, seeks the suspension of the constituency delimitation set out by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which would see about four rural voting centres being merged into the Maseru urban. According to the Bill’s sponsors, if approved, the bill would bring balance for the rural voters who are usually expected to travel long distances in their areas for electoral and other services.

“This will be for the benefit of democracy. We have to first think of the country and its people before looking into our selfish political interests,” said Kholumo, calling for other parties in parliament to support the Bill. He said with the current setup and the ongoing national reforms it would be counterproductive to even think of constituency delimitation since there are so many proposals that could render such process null and void before elections next year.

“We know that in the NRA they are pushing for a 50/50 mixed member parliament, which means we might even be talking about only 60 constituencies in the next elections instead of the current 80. So what would be the use of carrying out the exercise?” he quizzed. Kholumo further said allowing the new law to appreciate the proposed differences of constituency figures from 10 to 25 percent would mean less headache for the IEC in the management of the next elections.

“Yes, we acknowledge there may have been a lot of movement of people to the urban areas, especially Maseru and giving the Commission the powers to increase the difference in registered voters per constituency to 25 percent would help a lot,” he said. Kholumo added that the only people who think the proposed changes are not in the national interest are those who believe having more constituencies in Maseru, will give them the upper-hand to win more in 2022.

He noted that collapsing some of the rural constituencies would mean more work for those politicians and parties canvasing in such extended areas, which he argues would now mean having to cover large areas that are mostly without roads and services in order to satisfy the IEC’s threshold. However other parties have expressed distaste with the proposed bill calling it a non-starter. ABC’s Chalane Phori said the sponsors of the Bill were wasting their time and money.

“It is madness. I can’t support such a bill,” he said, further advising those moving it in parliament to withdraw before they get embarrassed in the House. Others have called it an opportunistic Bill whereby smaller parties think they can hold on to their stay in parliament by playing around with threshold figures. Transformation Resource Centre’s Director, Peshoane Tsikoane also says the proposed Bill is unacceptable in a democracy.

“We can’t just allow changes in the Constitution to suit certain people. The law is the law and it must be respected,” he said. He further stressed that this is one Bill that his organisation, together with other civil society allies will fight to the bitter end to make sure it doesn’t make it to the next stages of the legislative processes.

For the proposed Bill to pass in parliament, it needs at least two thirds majority and although the sponsors are confident of rallying that kind of support, sources close to the coalition government circles say the issue of the Bill has already divided the government and could even further hurt the current deal between the ABC and DC. This would be the third time a private members Bill gets the attention of the House of Representatives and, as elaborated by the sponsors, it is not a cheap exercise and it would be very disappointing if it does not get the needed support to pass into law, Kholumo appealed.

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