It’s time to overhaul Senate

7

VERY often I wonder how we do things as a nation.

We seem not to look at the larger picture.

Our leaders seem keen to advance their own personal interests.

They seem to be overly concerned with who occupies which position in government at the expense of service delivery.

This is happening at a time when the country is battling to deal with the problem of providing essential services to the people.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in attempts to address this problem is the governance structure.

There have been several major changes in the structure of the National Assembly over the past 15 years.

But the Senate has not been touched.

Is the failure to transform the Senate due to the fact that there are no people brave enough to propose changes or is it because there is no need for these changes?

I have struggled to understand the rationale behind the current composition of the Senate.

The upper house consists of 22 principal chiefs and 11 individuals who are appointed by the king on the advice of the State Council.

What I fail to understand is why chiefs were given so many seats in the Senate.

They have permanent jobs as principal chiefs yet they spend most of their time in Maseru on senatorial business.

The time they spend means they would have left their permanent jobs in the hands of people who are not chiefs.

I think there is a need to decide whether these individuals should serve as chiefs or senators only.

If people decide that they should serve as senators, Basotho should be allowed to elect other individuals who will serve their interests in the wards.

I am of the view that principal chiefs should go back to their wards and leave the Senate for people who have experience from all walks of life.

These could include retired judges, former university professors, representatives from civil society groups, labour movements, representatives from cultural groups and other special interest groups.

I am sure these senators would be quite objective in dealing with national matters.

Of course we will have a few chiefs representing traditional leaders in the Senate.

But they do not have to make the majority in the House.

We should also not forget that chiefs are predominantly members of the same household.

This is certainly not acceptable in a democratic state.

We also have, among these, uneducated chiefs.

The problem is that this class has limited analytical ability and exhibits very narrow thinking on critical national issues.

Chieftainship is a hereditary position.

Too often it breeds laziness as individuals do not make efforts to improve themselves.

We must come up with performance appraisals for all people holding public office to ensure efficiency at all levels of public service.

Members of one family should not benefit from state resources at the expense of the majority.

Lesotho belongs to all of us and not to some oligarchs.

Ordinary people on the other hand should refrain from practices that will begrime the democratic principles that we so much cherish.

Nepotism and corruption should not be the basis of building a Lesotho of the 21st century.

If one is a leader it should not be a given that your progeny should by-pass procedures, processes and structures which are designed to ensure equitable distribution of national resources.

We should not allow a situation where sons and daughters of politicians, chiefs and senior government officials are given better services and opportunities than other citizens of Lesotho.

The time to restructure the Senate is now long overdue.

The government must start a comprehensive consultation process to effect reforms of that key national institution.

I hope the minister responsible for this portfolio will take this proposal seriously.

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