Taking stock of NRA work since its inception
Justice ’Maseforo Mahase who was Acting Chief Justice at the time on February 6, 2020 inaugurated 56 members of the National Reforms Authority (NRA). The members are drawn from political parties, government, different professions and vocations and they are collectively tasked with managing, co-ordinating and leading the implementation of the multi-sectoral reforms which were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.
In terms of the NRA Act, the authority officially started its mandate on October 1, 2020 following the successful appointment of Chief Executive, Advocate Mafiroanoe Motanyane, whose appointed was followed by that of his deputy before the subsequent engagement of the rest of the staff.
With only four months before its tenure comes to an end, Public Eye’s Relebohile Tsoamotse caught up with the NRA’s Chairperson Pelele Letsoela (PL) for an update on the work of the reforms authority.
RT: Can you give us some highlights of what NRA has successfully done in the past months?
PL: I know you are looking for what we have done with regards to the seven thematic areas of reforms but let me start by highlighting that we successfully appointed the CEO on September 29 followed by his deputy on October 7. That was followed by the appointment of the secretariat although it was delayed due to the NRA guiding regulations which were only published on November 20 20.
It was after this date that the CEO and his deputy were now able to recruit staff as empowered by the NRA regulations. We were able to hire the seven clerks for our thematic areas as well as two special advisors or experts for two areas, namely; media and economy.
We then formed seven committees as per thematic areas and elected chairpersons from each. This meant that the NRA was ready to work.
RT: You said only two experts – economic affairs and the other under media – were engaged in December, where are other experts for the rest of the thematic areas?
PL: We were not able to get all the experts from advertising these posts but we were able to appoint Retired Judge Teboho Moiloa as an expert under the Justice sector leaving us with the four sectors, namely; constitutional reforms, parliamentary affairs, public and security sector.
We are expecting experts in all the fields by the end of May and the African Union has promised to assist with the security expert while the rest of the experts we need will come from Commonwealth. They come at no cost for the authority since the said organisations will sponsor their stay in the country in full.
RL: What challenges has the delay of the other experts caused? How were you able to operate without them?
PL: Given the fact that their role is advisory and directing here and there, it has not been of a big challenge; we are also working with government ministries and departments as well as some experts we can find them. NRA experts will also have an opportunity to review any bills, policies or any other instrument deliberated on by the NRA.
RL: What exactly has been done? Have any Bills been submitted to Parliament?
PL: We have processed a number of legal instruments so far, some of which are still being discussed. Three of those have been submitted to the Law minister and are ready to be presented to Parliament. It is the Referendum Bill, the tenth amendment to the constitution and the Human Rights Commission Bill.
The authority has also successfully adopted the Media Policy, and media Practitioners code of conduct which is to be submitted to the minister as well.
The committees are presently seized with different bills and policies that I will outline but I should explain that the Anti-Corruption Bill, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Bill and constitutional amendments on transforming the office of the Director General DCEO and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) are at an advanced stage.
In terms of the committee programmes, the Public Sector is, for instance, dealing with the Public Service Recruitment Policy, the security sector committee is developing a national security policy and strategy, while the media committee is presently busy with a legal framework on the access of information, Media Council Bill, Lesotho Public Broadcasting Bill, and the Advertising Standards Bureau Bill.
Also, we have the parliamentary affairs committee which is coming up with a legislative framework that seeks to regulate, among other things, issues of floor-crossing and the independence of legislature.
The justice sector is dealing with the constitutional amendment on the DCEO establishment, constitutional amendment to chapter 11 of the constitution (Judicature), as well as the development of the structure of the judiciary.
There is also the constitutional reforms committee working on the powers of the Prime Minister and regulation of governments and opposition parties, among things, while the economic reforms committee is working towards finding the best model for the Public Procurement Model for the country and the establishment of the public assets management authority.
The NRA is, in terms of section 3 of their Act and 7 (1) (i), mandated to explore possible ways to the national unity and reconciliation. While it’s our mandate, we cannot do it alone, we need the inputs of stakeholders to attain the goal. On that score, we have been facilitating the National Stakeholder Consultative Forum in a bid to establish a structure that will exist even after NRA to find unity for Basotho.
The forum was set to meet in December 2020 but was postponed due to Covid-19 and when we attempted meet in January, we were hit by the second wave but plans are now at an advanced stage to hold the forum.
RT: Are you able to follow up on the submitted Bills and the policies you have submitted?
PL: Our mandate only ends where we submit them to the Minister of law.
RT: We are officially seven months into the reforms, how did you prioritise which particular issues have to be attended to first?
PL: The criteria is simple; it is based on the principle of working for stability in Parliament after elections. The target is to ensure that all election related issues are implemented before the 2022 elections.
RT: Is the government cooperating in the whole process?
PL: It is, like I mentioned earlier, we are working on most of the Bills with different government ministries and their experts.
RL: We have noticed a situation where reforms related Bills like the Cyber Security Bill were presented in parliament without the NRA involvement, how do you plan on remedying this situation? Are you not anticipating that with other Bills that have to go through NRA?
PL: We are very much aware of the situation. It is not only the Cyber Security Bill, we noticed even the Decentralization Bill but we have liaised with the law minister emphasising that all NRA-related bills have to go through us to ensure they comply with Plenary II resolutions. The minister has promised to look into the issue.