WITH the government delaying the implementation of multi-sectoral reforms and opposition parties vowing to boycott, it appears the process may be stillborn.
Political analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week had mixed views on the fate of the process, with some highlighting the importance of participation by all in the reforms process while others insisted on the need to ensure the implementation of the SADC recommendations, come rain come shine.
The opposition parties have refused to participate in the reforms after accusing the government of persecution and meddling in the affairs of the judiciary among other grievances.
However, government spokesperson and Communications Minister, Joang Molapo, asserted that nothing would stop the implementation of the reforms with or without the opposition.
“We are aware that the opposition are trying to frustrate government’s efforts towards implementing the reforms by saying they will boycott them. Our expectations are for all crucial actors to participate. While the opposition are failing to envision the importance of the reforms by hiding behind trivial excuses, this initiative will contribute to the long-term stability we should all work to create,” Chief Molapo said.
He said the government was at peace knowing that they genuinely invited the exiled opposition leaders to make their mark in the reform discussions, an invitation they turned down.
“We have tried, including promising them the security they may need, but they have rejected our offer. We are still open for further discussions, and if we face some resistance, we are going to continue with actors who value this process.”
The government last week adopted a Master Framework of the Reforms Roadmap which articulated the proposed national dialogue in two dimensions namely: Building stakeholder consensus on the reforms; and Building long-term national unity and reconciliation.
The specific objectives of the reforms include: Reform and re-organization of the security architecture of the country to ensure fitness for purpose and responsiveness to the country’s needs; Reform and creation of an effective, efficient, professional and results-oriented civil service for enhanced service delivery and development; and Review and reform of the justice sector to ensure greater justice.
In addition, Rule of law and respect of human rights; Review and reform of critical institutions such as parliament and relevant legislation, including electoral, to ensure enhanced independence, stability and representation; Review of the Constitution to ensure its alignment to the needs of present-day Lesotho; Promotion of stakeholder consensus on the reforms and long-term national unity and reconciliation; are also part of the objectives.
The Reforms Roadmap official document highlights timeframes, reflecting that by this time, the inaugural Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue should have been conducted.
Political analyst, Mafa Sejanamane said the opposition’s absence would not hamper the reforms process.
“It is not a matter of whether the reforms will be delayed as they are a clear SADC mandate and the political parties also pledged to engage in reforms post the elections, so I don’t see why anyone can come now and say they should not continue,” he said.
Prof Sejanamane explained that while there may be some delays, the process would have to proceed.
“The reforms are not about individuals, but the entire nation and the need emerged at a time when the current opposition was in power. The opposition will find itself in trouble if they do not present themselves but then, I am not sure whether it is the entire opposition or just individuals who want to boycott the process.”
Prof Sejanamane said although the opposition’s absence was likely to make passing of laws difficult, their attitude would not stop the reforms.
“Looking at public and security sector reforms, they don’t need constitutional mandate but just need agreement and formation of laws as they are not formed under the constitution. Minor problems may arise where there are entrenched clauses of the constitution that need to be reviewed through section 85, but I still believe there is a way out,” he said.
Political analyst Nthakeng Selinyane said the reforms process was at the very least in limbo adding that the government should show its seriousness in implementation.
“The government is the national executive in this case, so they should come out and pronounce their position for work to start. We can have a multi-stakeholders body aimed at reconciling everybody’s preference to draw a commonly agreed roadmap. As far as I am concerned, there is no time lost in terms of deadlines as SADC has not convened and the facilitator to Lesotho is also out of action. The government should start demonstrating in action that it is committed to reforms by starting what needs to be done in the immediate term,” Mr Selinyane said.
He explained that if the reforms were to be implemented through parliament, then the government could continue with reforms as majority.
“If the opposition boycotts, then it is their own business but if it can be proved that the government is hindering their participation, then it cannot be a credible process. Inside those very parties of people saying they will not partake in reforms, one may find that there are people who are participating in reforms. If they reckon they can hold to ransom the nation by putting their egos first, that should not be allowed,” Mr Selinyane said.
Through several platforms, the European Union has said that justice cannot be traded for peace but should be preserved for peace to prevail.
On the other hand, opposition political activist, Fako Likoti, accused the government of stifling the environment for them to develop the reforms alone.
“Everybody knows that reforms are important but then the government does not see value in them as they made it clear that they want to do reforms on their own,” he said.
Explaining why he thinks the government does not value the reforms he said: “The government has polluted the environment for reforms through attacks they made to the Chief Justice, chasing opposition leaders, brutalizing the people and further bringing foreign soldiers here to terrorize people. No one can do reforms at gunpoint,” Dr Likoti said.