CABINET has adopted a roadmap for the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms which identifies immediate and long-term areas of focus.
Prime Minister’s Office Cabinet Administrator, Makhetha Motšoari, yesterday confirmed the adoption of the draft roadmap by cabinet on Tuesday.
“The roadmap document has been duly adopted as an official government document and the next process will be presenting it to parliament so that they can adopt it,” Adv Motšoari said.
He said arrangements had been made to call an urgent special parliamentary sitting so that legislators could discuss and adopt the document.
A copy of the roadmap seen by the Lesotho Times, states that constitutional reforms have been necessitated by the “absence of consensus on how to govern Lesotho including how powers should be divided”.
The document also states that “the current constitutional arrangements are not appropriately designed to manage new challenges, including, in particular, those that have resulted from the Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) electoral system” which was introduced to afford smaller parties representation in parliament.
“The government therefore emphasizes the need for an all-inclusive approach in which the entire spectrum of Basotho including all political parties and the public participate to ensure the universal acceptance of the reforms.”
While accepting the need for constitutional reform, the government also emphasizes the importance of a sensitively managed process to ensure that it does not become divisive and cause more problems for the nation.
The government further notes that while there are many positive international experiences of constitutional reform which Lesotho will look up to and some of those experiences “also show that reviewing a constitution in an inclusive, transparent and participatory manner can be a lengthy and difficult process”.
“If they are not managed sensitively, constitutional review processes can rapidly become divisive. On occasion, instead of producing constitutions that contribute to development and democracy, constitutional reform processes have led to constitutional change that centralises power or privileges the political elite.
“The Government is committed to a review process that is inclusive, consultative and efficient and leads to the best possible outcomes. Consultations will lead to a law setting out the constitutional review process and the establishment of the mechanisms or bodies that will conduct the actual constitutional review. Consensus among stakeholders will be key to the adoption of the law by parliament.”
However, the government also notes that constitutional reform is not the complete panacea to all the country’s problems, adding some of these challenges can be resolved by strengthening existing laws and transforming the political culture.
“Even as we plan for a constitutional review process, we must implement immediate and short-term administrative, policy and legislative changes which do not necessarily require constitutional changes in order to enhance stability and strengthen our institutions,” part of the document states with regards to addressing some concerns which include floor-crossing and party registration.
The government also feels issues of party funding, thresholds for representation in the National Assembly, coalition formation, votes of no confidence and caretaker governments can also addressed without necessarily resorting to constitutional reform.
The government also identifies as priority, the reform of the security sector which has been “apportioned a substantial part of the blame for the cyclical political instability in the Kingdom”.
To this end, government proposes the establishment of a national security coordination body such as a National Security Council to facilitate the security reforms. It proposes that this body be chaired by the prime minister.
The roadmap also suggests the need to curtail or at least review the powers of the prime minister which are seen as an obstacle to the independence of critical institutions such as the judiciary and ombudsman.
“It is accepted that a judiciary that is independent and that is also perceived to be independent is a key institution to secure the rule of law, promote fair and effective government and ensure stable and respected institutions.
“In this context, the appointment process for the judiciary requires urgent attention because currently the government, and particularly the Prime Minister, has a powerful role in appointments to the Judicial Service Commission and the bench. Changes to these appointment arrangements will require a constitutional amendment approved by a referendum.”
The proposed roadmap states that while long term reforms are debated, interim measures, such as opening up the appointments process through advertising positions, announcing the candidates, public interviews and vetting by a parliamentary committee must be considered.
The roadmap also notes that the ombudsman is appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister and this “undermines the confidence of the public in the ability of the Office of the Ombudsman to act impartially in relation to their complaints about the public administration”.
Government also notes that in addition to the lack of judicial independence, there are other structural and systemic problems in the justice system which have undermined the rule of law and denied people in Lesotho from having equal access to justice.
Some of these issues that need to be addressed include excessive delays in the hearing of cases and the centralization of most justice institutions in the capital, Maseru and some urban centers; lack of basic infrastructure and shortage of staff to address the high caseload.
“The net result is a slow throughput of cases, long trials and a high case backlog in a system already constrained by weak case management and poor sector wide coordination, communication and cooperation.
“The prisons are overcrowded with over 5,000 inmates of whom approximately 25 percent are pretrial detainees awaiting trial,” part of the document states.