The legacy of the speaker and deputy

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment does not only mark the end of term for MPs but also sig­nals the pos­si­bil­i­ties for new pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers in the next par­lia­ment.

Shortly after 2012 Gen­eral Elec­tions that born the hung par­lia­ment, in fact in the first sit­ting of the 8th Par­lia­ment one of the po­lit­i­cal gu­rus of this King­dom Rt hon Sepheri Motanyane was elected the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly and deputised by the Leader of a left­ist Popular Front for Democ­racy, ad­vo­cate Lekhetho Rakuane.

The ques­tion that con­cern those who value pre­sid­ing of par­lia­ment as sig­nif­i­cant for Le­sotho’s con­sti­tu­tion par­tic­u­larly in the dy­namic par­lia­ment like the 8th, is “what is legacy of their short lived ten­ure of of­fice?”

The Speaker of Na­tional Assem­bly in the 8th Par­lia­ment was the deputy Speaker in the 7th but his pro­file is longer, deeper and weighs far more than this.

Be­sides hav­ing been the youngest mem­bers of par­lia­ment in the first mod­ern par­lia­ment in 1965, he has been a mem­ber for his con­stituency for all elected par­lia­ments con­sis­tently since then to 2012 rep­re­sent­ing Ba­su­toland Congress Party and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy.

The Deputy Speaker has been a youth and stu­dent ac­tivist, a mem­ber of Com­mit­tee for Ac­tion and Sol­i­dar­ity for South­ern African Stu­dents, a breed­ing ground for left­ist po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion op­er­at­ing at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho. Later he prac­tised as a hu­man rights lawyer, led and worked for civil so­ci­ety be­fore he joined ac­tive party pol­i­tics.

Un­til he be­came the Deputy Speaker, Rakuane has played me­di­a­tory pol­i­tics thus mak­ing him a king­maker in many of the recorded po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in this coun­try. This is con­firmed by his elec­tion to be­come a co-chair­per­son of In­terim Po­lit­i­cal Au­thor­ity and leader of par­lia­men­tary re­form process. But how have they presided over par­lia­ment in their time?

The 8th Par­lia­ment had many chal­lenges and the rul­ings of the two top of­fi­cials will for pos­ter­ity go to jour­nals just like those of those who came be­fore them. The de­par­ture of BCP leader from the party with the majority of the Na­tional Assem­bly to form Le­sotho Con- gress for Democ­racy that mounted to the pin­na­cle of con­trol of state power with­out elec­tions at­tracted crit­i­cism to the Speaker. Sim­i­lar case oc­curred with Demo­cratic Congress and the sit­u­a­tion was even more dy­namic in the 8th par­lia­ment.

This his­tory placed a very huge pres­sure on the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers be­cause in there has been a strong per­cep­tion that par­lia­men­tary pro­cesses have con­ve­niently been hi­jacked to favour those who head ex­ec­u­tive. When the Leader of BBDP placed the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence and MP for Makhaleng wanted it treated as an ur­gent mat­ter, the Deputy Speaker stood firm to the Stand­ing Or­ders.

Though op­po­si­tion mem­bers in­sisted on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion that ad­vanced their de­sires, be­com­ing un­ruly and thus turn­ing the house into be­ing un­govern­able as they sung the Na­tional Assem­bly, the Deputy Speaker stood the ground. When he re­signed as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, the Deputy Speaker re­mained, in of­fice while the con­sti­tu­tion dis­al­lows that.

In re­al­i­sa­tion he re­signed forth­with, some­thing that may not be pos­si­ble with oth­ers. It is the same Deputy Speaker who re­mained firm on the Stand­ing Or­ders when the gov­ern­ment side wanted him to un­pro­ce­du­rally deny op­po­si­tion mem­bers right to ta­ble un­wanted mo­tion.

The Speaker had very sober rul­ings on a num­ber of re­quests and no­ti­fi­ca­tions seek­ing to al­ter power con­fig­u­ra­tions in par­lia­ment.

When the Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs op­posed func­tion of Hon Mo­choboroane as the Min­is­ter in the house be­cause he was not, the Speaker took time to con­sult and make rul­ing. When he ruled that the mat­ter is sub­ju­di­cae yet he would not al­low him to re­spond to the ques­tions di­rected to the min­istry of com­mu­ni­ca­tion rather the col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity fa­cil­ity could be used, op­po­si­tion in and out­side gov­ern­ment rose in protest.

Though Ad­vo­cate Retšelisit­soe Masenyetse a for­mer civil ser­vant who served in se­nior po­si­tions and had con­sid­er­able ex­po­sure is one of the sober minds in the house on the DC bench, what he said about the Speaker that he was a sham who de­graded the par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dures can­not just be ig­nored. Hon Masenyetse even in­di­cated that they warned SADC about fail­ures of the Speaker and his abil­ity to ob­jec­tively lead the house.

While the ap­praisal of the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers, is an open cause, it may not jus­ti­fi­able be claimed that the duo low­ered the stan­dards in their con­duct. The level of ma­tu­rity and firm­ness dis­played by th­ese pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers have with­out doubt taught many that the ex­ces­sive in­flu­ence that ex­ec­u­tive used to en­joy over the leg­isla­tive pro­ce­dures was de­nied in this 8th par­lia­ment.

The con­tem­plated nu­mer­ous changes of power con­fig­u­ra­tion in the 8th par­lia­ment with­out such a bril­liant and firm guid­ance could have eas­ily eroded the im­age of this in­sti­tu­tion which is ex­pected to check ex­ec­u­tive.

In terms of the con­sti­tu­tion, the first func­tion of the new par­lia­ment shall be to elect the Speaker and the deputy after mem­bers would have taken oath.

Though this is largely a mat­ter to po­lit­i­cal power ar­range­ment in par­lia­ment, it would be very im­por­tant for the par­lia­ment to look for strength and abil­ity to lead the house from Stand­ing Or­ders and nec­es­sary bril­liance to con­sult.

Un­der­stand­ably some, per­haps those who have been un­der their di­rect lead­er­ship, may dif­fer with this nar­ra­tive but cer­tainly there should be a common ground that the duo gave new look of the par­lia­ment.

The Lead­er­ship of the Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate and his Deputy has equally added value to the re­spectabil­ity of the house. Or­gan­is­ing train­ing ses­sions for the Se­na­tors and ex­pos­ing them to var­i­ous fora. It would there­fore be equally pru­dent for the mem­bers of the Up­per House to re­main vig­i­lant in the choice of its pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers.

Be­cause the Up­per House can ben­e­fit more in es­tab­lish­ing link­ages with var­i­ous sec­tors and abil­ity of its mem­bers to en­gage the con­tem­po­rary is­sues, there is a need for vig­i­lant lead­er­ship.

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