‘Reforms Authority must commence soon’
. . . law minister minister warned over deadlines
MASERU – National Reforms Authority (NRA) chairperson, Pelele Letsoela, has warned the law minister of imminent failure to enact proposed significant laws if the Authority is not housed and oiled to commence operations. The Authority has singled out three Bills it says incumbent minister, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has to ensure they go through the legislature to meet his December deadline for enactment.
Mahao, a fortnight ago announced preparations for Bills on establishment of the Human Rights Commission, improvement of operations of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the Independent Electoral Commission which will be sent to the NRA for scrutiny to ensure they capture the views of Basotho on constitutional and governance reforms they want to be adopted. He also said government hoped to have fully implemented the multi-sectoral reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) before the 2022 elections.
The NRA is mandated to manage, co-ordinate and lead the implementation of the multi-sector reforms that were recommended in 2016 by the SADC as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in the country. The Authority has 56 voting members and three non-voting members, and was inaugurated by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in February this year. It was expected to immediately begin its oversight work on the translation of national reforms resolutions into draft laws for enactment by parliament.
The reforms resolutions cover seven thematic areas namely; the judiciary, economy, security, media, parliamentary, public service and the constitution. The reforms resolutions were produced from data collected from the public by the National Reforms Dialogue Committee (NDPC) through plenaries and consultations – both from inside the country and from Basotho in the diaspora. Letsoela said the Authority was pleased with Mahao’s ambition to establish a Human Rights Commission and the enactment of new laws governing the operations of the DCEO and the IEC by the end of this year.
And in a positive move the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences (Amendment) Bill of 2020 has since been tabled before parliament and was passed by the National Assembly last week, and awaits debate in the Senate before Royal Assent by the King. But he maintains challenges such as lack of office space and a secretariat for the NRA remained impediments to the minister’s December deadline. He wants Mahao and his ministry to urgently make arrangements for the provision of office space for the NRA to ensure that the December deadlines and many others are met.
In a recent media briefing Mahao said he had already met with the NRA boss where they agreed to work closely together to ensure the envisioned Bills become law. “We have agreed that all draft Bills related to the reforms will pass through the NRA for it to ensure that such proposed laws cover the opinions of Basotho in relation to the reforms process,” he said. He said the recruitment of the NRA secretariat would be concluded by October this year to run with the reforms agenda. In an interview last week Letsoela said the NRA had its own challenges that may hamper meeting timelines set by law minister. “We are now in a transitional period because we have not concluded the process of engaging the secretariat,” he said.
Without a secretariat, Letsoela said, the NRA was unable to run with the reforms agenda. He said the National Reforms Act of 2019 indicates that the Authority would be deemed to have resumed its duties once a full-fledged secretariat has been engaged. “The biggest challenge now is that we have not filled the positions of the chief executive officer and deputy chief executive officer. These are key positions. “We were sworn into office on February 6 and on February 11 the Ministry of Law asked us to assist with filling those positions. It was agreed that we should engage a consultancy firm to carry out this mandate. The process of engaging such a consultancy firm will only be concluded this week,” he said.
“In the absence of the infrastructure and secretariat, it is not possible for him (Mahao) to meet those deadlines as the NRA will not be able to assist him. We are simply requesting the minister to assist us with infrastructure. With infrastructure and secretariat in place, we will easily be able to meet some of these set deadlines,” he concluded. He also accused the Ministry Law and Justice of failing to consult with the NRA on pertinent work-related issues regarding the reforms process. Development for Peace Education (DPE) has been instrumental in the reforms process, and national coordinator, Sofonea Shale, suggests the NRA and the ministry must urgently meet to deal with pending challenges.
“He has demonstrated good intentions for the reforms. It is important for us to note that the ministry appreciates that some of these things should be processed with the involvement of the NRA. “But what I think should top the priority list now is a meeting of the NRA and government to agree on their working relationship now that government has prioritised reforms,” Shale said. Newly installed Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro also recently told the nation that his administration was fully committed to supporting the NRA “with funding, secretariat and all required equipment for it to carry out its functions.”
“It is our desire as government to see the reforms process halfway through conclusion by the end of this year,” Dr Majoro said. Shale welcomed this assurance by Majoro as a demonstration that the government has prioritised the reforms. He added: “Though not accurate, the statements by the government indicate that reforms have been tipped as one of those potential areas which can give results observable to the public within this time period.”
Shale, however, said the reforms cannot reach finality unless government and the NRA sit and agree on the implementation approach. He warned that the process would be futile if the NRA goes into that meeting unprepared and wants the Authority to have its own approach finalised prior to the proposed meeting. “There is mounting pressure from the people about the progress in the NRA but also the excitement arising from elaborations and statements by different ministries, you can definitely see that the NRA will have to double its speed if it is to remain relevant.
“For example, all the issues that have been raised by the Ministry of Law and Justice are very pertinent and close to the people; all of them covered in the reforms dialogue reports. If the NRA remains flat-footed while the ministry is ready and the people are eager to see the very same changes, you can see that the NRA will struggle to stay relevant in the course of events. There is immense pressure on the NRA,” Shale said. The NRA has been established to facilitate national transformation leading to a just, prosperous and stable national consensus for the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms. The independent body is scheduled to be in office on a one-year tenure.