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Govt commits to ambitious reforms


Pascalinah Kabi

THE Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led government has committed to a 90-daywork programme that includes promulgation of a public procurement code of conduct and formulation of an economic reform blueprint.

The four-parties making the governing alliance have also committed to working together in good faith and to “avoid surprises” in a bid to avoid the pitfalls that led to the premature collapse of the two previous coalition governments.

These goals are contained in the long awaited Coalition Agreement between Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) which was signed on Thursday during a cabinet retreat in Mohale.

The parties cobbled together their seats to form Lesotho’s third coalition government after the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections resulted in a hung parliament.

They ousted a seven-party government led by Pakalitha Mosisili which failed to last the distance after assuming power in March 2017.

Lesotho’s first coalition government, which consisted of the ABC, BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), collapsed in 2014 after only serving two years.  LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, had walked away from the alliance after accusing Dr Thabane of not consulting him on key governance decisions.

To avoid the previous coalition governments’ fate of collapsing midstream, Dr Thabane, AD leader Monyane Moleleki, BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and RCL leader Keketso Rantšo agreed to anchor their agreement on “trust and confidence”.

“Trust and confidence are a critical ingredient to running an effective government,” states the governance blueprint which is titled “The Coalition Agreement for National Unity, Reconciliation, Peace and Stability”.

“Lesotho has chosen a dangerous political and economic trajectory, which if not quickly reversed will lead to a conflict and economic collapse. There is an urgent need to restore trust and confidence amongst the Basotho in their own government and amongst partners and investors.”

In the absence of strong institutions and public policies, the agreement states that poverty, hunger, inequality, ignorance and ill-health had persisted and left many Basotho vulnerable to daily life challenges.

“As a result of the intersection between these challenges, Lesotho is now facing an existential crisis which if not addressed urgently by its leaders could stoke civil conflict.”

To arrest the aforementioned challenges, the government has committed to undertake “confidence building measures” that include implementing all outstanding decisions emanating from the intervention by Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lesotho.

The decisions encompass reforms in the security, constitutional, security, media and public sectors with the objective of attaining lasting peace and stability.

To stem corruption by public office holders, the government has also made a 90-day commitment to;

  • Strengthen investigative and judicial offices and promptly implement a revamped policy of declaration of assets and interests;
  • Promulgate a public procurement code of conduct for politically exposed persons including ministers and senior officers;
  • Review and pass new procurement legislation.

The government has also undertaken to implement all reform proposals outlined by both the SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho (SOMILES) and the Commonwealth (New Zealand Reforms) that do not require constitutional amendments and lengthy legislative process.

SOMILES was deployed under the auspices of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security after Lesotho was plagued by political and security instability in 2014. The SOMILES report urged the Mountain Kingdom to redefine the functions of the police and military so that they do not have overlapping features.

The report also recommended the regulation of parliamentary floor-crossing and no-confidence votes to prevent political instability.

A 25-member delegation of Lesotho politicians, senior civil servants and civil society representatives visited New Zealand from 28 June to 5 July 2014 to study the country’s governance system.

After the tour, Commonwealth Expert Adviser to Lesotho, Dr Rajen Prasad compiled a report suggesting, among other issues, that Lesotho should depoliticise its civil service and undertake parliamentary reforms.

The coalition government has also committed to economic reforms within 90 days.

“. . . to produce an economic reform blueprint to halt the stagnation in the economy through restoring political and macroeconomic stability, as well as stimulating consumer, investor and development partner confidence in the economy.”

They will promptly undertake public service reforms to ensure the sector is “professional, independent, accountable and effective”.

To foster cohesion within the coalition, the party leaders will meet on a regular basis and when the need arises.

“The parties recognise that in some circumstances, it will be possible to disagree on some issues. In those circumstances, each party will be free to express alternative views publicly and in parliament,” reads the agreement.

“In a case of dispute, the matters in dispute will be referred to an independent mediation mechanism as set out below.

“The parties agree to set up an independent mediation mechanism to the agreement to help resolve disputes between parties. Members to the mechanism shall normally be persons of eminent status, wise and capable of independent oversight over the agreement.

“The parties agree to invite SADC and other international partners to serve as mediators of last resort to this agreement. In the circumstances that all local remedies fail to resolve a dispute, SADC or other regional and international partners shall be requested to mediate,” read the agreement.”

The parties also agreed to support the government on procedural motions in the House and in Portfolio Committees, and to be bound by the provisions in the Cabinet ‘manual’ on the conduct, public duty and personal interests of ministers.


Other salient points of the Coalition Agreement

  • The prime minister shall come from All Basotho Convention.
  • The deputy prime minister shall come from Alliance of Democrats.
  • Cabinet portfolios will be allocated by the prime minister in consultation with the coalition partners.
  • The prime minister shall appoint 17 ministers from the ranks of ABC, six ministers from the ranks of AD, two ministers from the ranks of BNP, and one minister from the ranks of RCL.
  • The prime minister shall appoint up to eight deputy ministers to be distributed across ministries in his discretion from the ranks of ABC (2), AD (3), BNP (2) and RCL (1).
  • Where the need to reshuffle Cabinet, or dismiss a minister arises for whatever reason, there shall be prior consultations between the prime minister and the relevant coalition partner.
  • The prime minister shall be responsible for all performance and disciplinary issues for all Cabinet ministers.
  • Cabinet will meet regularly and is the only place where formal decisions are made on all critical issues and those that are prescribed constitutionally.
  • All members of Cabinet are bound by the principle of collective cabinet responsibility. Once Cabinet decision is made, no cabinet minister can stand aside from it unless Cabinet gives approval for a minister to take a different position.
  • Consultation is presumed to precede every important decision by the prime minister. However, consultation shall not mean agreement on each of the decisions.
  • The prime minister shall always exercise his constitutional powers in the interests of preserving the stability of the coalition government and shall consult members of the coalition government.

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