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Civil society ‘is here to stay’


Executive Director of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN),Seabata Motsamai.
Executive Director of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN),Seabata Motsamai.

Motsamai Mokotjo

Civil society is here to stay and will continue to be a watchdog over government, according to Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) Executive Director, Seabata Motsamai.

With United Nations (UN) International Day of Democracy commemorations set for 15 September, Mr Motsamai yesterday told the Sunday Express that civic groups have a critical role to play to ensure governments respects people’s rights.

This year’s International Day of Democracy theme is ‘Space for Civil Society’ which Mr Motsamai said highlighted the significance of rights groups .

“We know our job; ours is to complement government, generally speaking, because governments are the guarantors of human rights, and the custodians of good governance.

“We ask: are you, as government, complying with the country’s constitution? If not, do you intend to come up with plans to help your citizens?” Mr Motsamai said.

According to Mr Motsamai, the authorities should not see civil society as interfering with State affairs or enemies.

“If one is in government, he or she is the first to criticise us, but once in opposition, begins to appreciate our role.

“What we require from government is understanding and appreciation. You can’t wish us away. You can kill LCN but another similar organisation will come up.”

Mr Motsamai also observed Lesotho ratifies many international treaties, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but does so with reservations.

“We take strength from such agreements as they provide for the right to participate in government and freedom of association.”

Asked about the perceived bad blood between NGOs and government, Mr Motsamai said: “It’s just madness from supporters of the different parties in government. It’s a misunderstanding, as far as I am concerned.”

Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) National Director, Libakiso Matlho, echoed Mr Motsamai’s sentiments on the role of civil society.

“If we are impulsive when dealing with issues, especially those that side-line women, then we are not playing our part.

“Women should play an active role; their voices should be heard in a democratic dispensation. They should be part of decision-making,” said Ms Matlho.

WLSA, she added, has been calling for the amendment of inheritance laws which prevent girl-children from enjoying the same rights as their male counterparts. According to Ms Matlho, this is one of the many battles WLSA is engaged in to ensure the rights of female members of society.

Another issue of critical importance, according to Ms Matlho, is civil society’s limitations in its role due to a number of factors.

She explained: “We are not doing enough because of fear of being victimised either professionally or personally.

“We need to be active. During international meetings, civil society needs to present shadow reports on what government is doing, but we are not presenting such reports.”

The Sunday Express made several attempts to seek comment from government yesterday, to no avail.

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