Why the de­lay in cabi­net ap­point­ments?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

ELSE­WHERE in this edi­tion, a se­nior South African tex­tile and cloth­ing sec­tor con­sul­tant has warned that Le­sotho’s tex­tile and cloth­ing pro­duc­tion will be dec­i­mated if the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) is not re­newed in Septem­ber

AGOA is a non­re­cip­ro­cal trade pref­er­ence pro­gramme that pro­vides duty-free treat­ment to United States im­ports of cer­tain prod­ucts from el­i­gi­ble sub-sa­ha­ran African coun­tries of which Le­sotho is a ma­jor ben­e­fi­ciary.

While this is­sue is not new, its con­spic­u­ous ab­sence in the man­i­festos of the par­ties that con­tested in the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions was dis­con­cert­ing to say the least.

Af­ter all, Le­sotho is the largest sub-sa­ha­ran African gar­ment ex­porter to the US, ac­count­ing for 30 per­cent by value and 28 per­cent by vol­ume of ex­ports from the re­gion to Amer­ica, ac­cord­ing to Le­sotho Tex­tile Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion fig­ures.

The Moun­tain King­dom stands to lose the most among all the coun­tries in Africa if the deal falls through. The coun­try can­not just hope that the fa­cil­ity will be re­newed but, rather, take a more proac­tive ap­proach as far as lob­by­ing is con­cerned.

Once again, how­ever, it seems out­siders are more con­cerned about the con­se­quences of AGOA’S fail­ure to be re­newed than Ba­sotho who will be di­rectly af­fected by it.

Ac­cord­ing to Andy Salm, who works for South African­based devel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion Com­mark Trust, the is­sue has taken a back­burner in Le­sotho par­tic­u­larly in the pe­riod lead­ing to the polls and the pe­riod af­ter.

How­ever, he warned that or­ders from the US re­quire at least four-month lead times and, with the Septem­ber dead­line loom­ing, the pos­si­bil­ity of those dry­ing up and em­ploy­ers lay­ing off work­ers is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly real.

United Na­tions fig­ures show that since AGOA’S in­tro­duc­tion, Le­sotho’s gar­ment in­dus­try has grown to con­trib­ute 20 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct –– with 80 per­cent of the man­u­fac­tur­ing for US mega-brands like Gap, Levi’s, and Wal­mart.

Around 44 000 Ba­sotho earn their living as a re­sult of AGOA with its dis­ap­pear­ance lead­ing to the im­me­di­ate slash­ing of 15 000 jobs ac­cord­ing to Mr Salm.

This would be cou­pled with Le­sotho-based for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers con­sid­er­ing re­lo­ca­tion to more in­vestor-friendly na­tions that of­fer bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for ef­fi­ciency and labour com­pe­ti­tion.

The warn­ing is par­tic­u­larly omi­nous con­sid­er­ing that tex­tile firm, Pre­cious Gar­ments, re­cently an­nounced the clo­sure of its Mafeteng sub­sidiary, P and T, next month, leav­ing 407 bread­win­ners in the cold.

The clo­sure was in part a re­sult of gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to hon­our its prom­ise to in­ject money into the firm, which had been shut down in 2010 due to viability chal­lenges.

While for­mer Trade Min­is­ter Sekhu­lumi Nt­soaole worked tire­lessly to have AGOA re­newed be­fore Septem­ber, he seemed to be fight­ing a lone battle with the rest of his pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment col­leagues seem­ingly un­per­turbed by such an im­por­tant is­sue.

The new gov­ern­ment needs to list this is­sue among its first and fore­most pri­or­i­ties since the econ­omy can il­laf­ford the dev­as­ta­tion a with­drawal of the fa­cil­ity would bring.

If ever there was a time to press the panic but­ton, now would be the time.

Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili will need to ap­point a ca­pa­ble Trade min­is­ter with the com­pe­tence to hit the ground run­ning in com­ing up with more sus­tain­able op­tions for trade that will boost Le­sotho’s cap­i­tal in­flows.

The gov­ern­ment will need to chart a new course for the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the econ­omy since, even if re­newed, AGOA re­mains sus­cep­ti­ble to eco­nomic shocks like re­ces­sions and decline in de­mand.

Crit­i­cal com­pet­i­tive­ness el­e­ments such as pro­duc­tiv­ity, cost ef­fec­tive­ness and lo­gis­tics also need to be put in place be­fore Le­sotho can look to other ex­port mar­kets be­yond the US.

Ul­ti­mately, it is in the new gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­ests to lobby for AGOA’S early re­newal since the demise of Le­sotho’s fledg­ling in­dus­tries would re­sult in un­em­ploy­ment ris­ing to new pro­por­tions, with the at­ten­dant po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, civil strife and run­away poverty. THE al­lo­ca­tion of 40 pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion seats fol­low­ing the Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions of 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015, came a cou­ple of min­utes af­ter Demo­cratic Congress leader, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili, had an­nounced the for­ma­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment of six po­lit­i­cal par­ties which were later joined by an­other to amass 65 seats.

That an­nounce­ment of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, which came be­fore the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of elec­tion re­sults, cre­ated a sense of ur­gency that now jus­ti­fies a public con­cern over the con­spic­u­ous de­lay in the an­nounce­ment and swear­ing-in of its cabi­net. Is Dr Mo­sisili un­able to form cabi­net? Are there in­ter­nal squab­bles within the new­ly­weds that should be re­solved be­fore mov­ing for­ward? What will hap­pen if 14 days pass with­out cabi­net? Should Dr Mo­sisili tell His Majesty that he is not able to form gov­ern­ment? So peo­ple ask.

This ar­ti­cle seeks to con­trib­ute to the on-go­ing public de­bate over th­ese is­sues mainly by ex­plor­ing the pos­si­ble chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as pro­vid­ing con­sti­tu­tional clar­ity and ex­pos­ing some am­bi­gu­i­ties of the main law which may need to be re­vis­ited.

First and fore­most, the time limit of 14 days that the con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides does not re­late to the for­ma­tion of gov­ern­ment or estab­lish­ment of cabi­net as many peo­ple be­lieve. The ar­gu­ment that gov­ern­ment should be formed within 14 days of elec­tions is not what the con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for.

The Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho pro­vides in Sec­tion 82(1) (b) that the Na­tional As­sem­bly shall meet within 14 days af­ter hold­ing of elec­tions. When it so meets, the Na­tional As­sem­bly shall deal with the agenda that His Majesty would have stip­u­lated in the sum­mons. The is­sue of 14 days does not, there­fore, in­clude the estab­lish­ment of cabi­net which is pro­vided for by a dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tional sec­tion.

What may need to be re­vis­ited is what “hold­ing elec­tions” means. In the or­di­nary use of English lan­guage, it means Elec­tion Day. If the man­ner in which it is used in this part of the con­sti­tu­tion means the same, it may have to be amended to read well with the in­ten­tion of speci­ficity in the same sec­tion.

Sec­tion 89 of the Na­tional As­sem­bly Elec­toral Act pro­vides for flex­i­bil­ity through the ex­ten­sion of vot­ing to the fol­low­ing day or even days. Fur­ther- more, the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) has pow­ers in terms of Sec­tion 142(1) by par­tic­u­lar or gen­eral in­struc­tion to (a) ex­tend the time for do­ing any act and in (c) adapt any mea­sure ad­e­quate to the ex­i­gen­cies of the sit­u­a­tion to achieve pur­poses of this Act.

This means that while Elec­tion Day is fixed as one day, vot­ing may, un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances, be ex­tended to a pe­riod longer than a day. In fact, it ex­plains why, in Sec­tion 106(4) of the same law, the IEC is given seven days from the date of the elec­tions to de­ter­mine and de­clare the re­sults.

It is this pro­vi­sion which is set to cater for the de­lays which may be caused on vot­ing and there­fore count­ing and de­ter­mi­na­tion of re­sults. If the con­sti­tu­tion in Sec­tion 82(1) (b) can be so pre­cise, why can the fix­ity it con­tem­plates be based on the elec­tions date which it­self is dy­namic? If the gen­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion that “hold­ing elec­tions” here means “af­ter an­nounce­ment” is not ac­cepted, then the con­sti­tu­tion says what it does not mean. But where is the cabi­net?

Sec­tion 87(1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides that there shall be prime min­is­ter ap­pointed by the King as ad­vised by the Coun­cil of State. This sec­tion read to­gether with Sec­tion 87(3) which pro­vides that in ad­di­tion to the of­fice of the prime min­is­ter, there shall be of­fices of other min­is­ters not less than seven in num­ber in­clud­ing that of deputy prime min­is­ter, gives the im­pres­sion that there must be a cabi­net soon af­ter there is a pre­mier.

The words “in ad­di­tion to the prime min­is­ter…” make a cabi­net cru­cial in the con­sum­ma­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive arm of gov­er­nance which the prime min­is­ter is the head of. How­ever, the con­sti­tu­tion does not stip­u­late the time within which it would be un­ac­cept­able and there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tional for the prime min­is­ter not to have ad­vised the King on who he/she has ap­pointed as min­is­ters. In this way, while it would be log­i­cal for the prime min­is­ter not to be in of­fice for the time more than nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish cabi­net, there is no time reg­u­la­tion on this one.

The public con­cern over this con­spic­u­ous de­lay in the an­nounce­ment of cabi­net is, there­fore, not only po­lit­i­cally cor­rect but con­sti­tu­tion­ally le­git­i­mate too. Re­flect­ing on the speed at which the coali­tion was an­nounced, it would be ex­pected that by this time min­is­ters would be in of­fice.

So the con­cerns raised over the de­lay are well placed. Some opine that the rea­son for the de­lay is the in­abil­ity to form cabi­net while oth­ers sur­mise that since there is no ex­press flaw of the law, Dr Mo­sisili should be al­lowed to take his time. Per­haps it should be ad­mit­ted that such public de­bate does not oc­cur on a clean slate, it takes place within a par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal con­text in which one can­not rule out par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal bi­ases.

Lead­ing a coali­tion of seven po­lit­i­cal par­ties is not by any stan­dards an easy task. It may, there­fore, take longer to con­sol­i­date cabi­net than would be the case in a sin­gle party gov­ern­ment.

When the Popular Front for Democ­racy joined the coali­tion fray, it made a very big show. Be­sides ac­cept­ing the orig­i­nal agree­ment of the six par­ties, it added its flavour to the dish.

It de­manded a pro­gramme which would form part of the agree­ment and it was ac­cepted. Log­i­cally, for seven par­ties to agree on a pro­gramme as a signed agree­ment be­fore start­ing work as gov­ern­ment may not be as quick.

Pre­vi­ously, there used to be two cat­e­gories of swear­ing-in cer­e­monies. The first com­prised mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and the Se­nate which later meets. Since se­nior­ity of cabi­net mem­bers is re­flected in the se­quence in which they take their oath, it might be that this time Dr Mo­sisili in­tends to do one set so that some min­is­ters who would or­di­nar­ily be se­nior in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence, re­spon­si­bil­ity, ca­pa­bil­ity etc. are not rel­e­gated to the lower level sim­ply be­cause they are sen­a­tors who took an oath later than their col­leagues.

To be a mem­ber of the Se­nate, one needs to first be ap­pointed by the King act­ing on the ad­vice of the coun­cil. How­ever the coun­cil may not sit and ad­vice the King on who to ap­point to the Se­nate un­less the Na­tional As­sem­bly would have first sat af­ter elec­tions. When ev­ery­thing is said and done, the ques­tion left beg­ging to Dr Mo­sisili is “But Ntate, why is it tak­ing you so long to form cabi­net?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.