Sadc wants more power for King

Wants more pow­ers for the King Sug­gests way to limit premier’s stay in power

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Bongiwe Zih­langu

LE­SOTHO should im­me­di­ately em­bark on se­cu­rity and par­lia­men­tary re­forms to achieve last­ing sta­bil­ity and re­vise the over­lap­ping fea­tures of the Le­sotho de­fence Force (LDF) and Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS).

The coun­try has also been urged to “se­ri­ously and speed­ily” con­sider amend­ing clauses per­tain­ing to floor-cross­ing and no-con­fi­dence mo­tions in the na­tional Assem­bly and the pro­ro­ga­tion of par­lia­ment, as well as cre­at­ing laws to sup­port coali­tion gov­ern­ments and re­view­ing the role of the King in gov­er­nance, which is cur­rently cer­e­mo­nial.

These are rec­om­men­da­tions con­tained in a South­ern African de­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) re­port sub­mit­ted to King Letsie III and gov­ern­ment last Fri­day by the re­gional bloc’s Fa­cil­i­ta­tor to Le­sotho, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port — the brain­child of the SADC ob­server Mis­sion to the King­dom of Le­sotho (SOMILES) de­ployed un­der the aus­pices of the or­gan on Pol­i­tics, de­fence and Se­cu­rity (opds) af­ter the coun­try was plagued by po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity in­sta­bil­ity in 2014 — the King­dom should re­de­fine the func­tions of the po­lice and mil­i­tary so that they do not have over­lap­ping fea­tures.

The re­port puts em­pha­sis on the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers of the two agen­cies, stat­ing that while the LMPS’ job is to main­tain law and or­der, the mil­i­tary’s du­ties should be lim­ited to the “de­fence of sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the land”.

“These two im­por­tant du­ties should not be a source of con­flict be­tween se­cu­rity ser­vices. dur­ing the SADC de­ploy­ment, it was noted that there was some over­lap be­tween the man­dates of the LDF and the LMPS,” the re­port states.

“This over­lap, as ob­served by the SOMILES, tended to bring dishar­mony in the de­liv­ery of an ef­fec­tive se­cu­rity ser­vice in Le­sotho.”

Ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, the re­port notes, the LDF was es­tab­lished for the de­fence of Le­sotho, while the LMPS is re­spon­si­ble for the main­te­nance of law and or­der.

“This con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion, there­fore, sets the tone for the de­mar­ca­tion and sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers of these two se­cu­rity agen­cies with re­gard to the main­te­nance of law and or­der in Le­sotho,” the re­port notes.

“Log­i­cally, con­se­quen­tial amend­ments should have been made in both the LDF and LMPS Acts. These amend­ments were not made and are the pri­mary causes of clashes be­tween the LDF and LMPS.”

The re­port fur­ther ob­serves the pro­tec­tion of Vips/gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials by the LDF is con­trary to re­gional and in­ter­na­tional best­prac­tices, adding “such ser­vice are pro­vided by ei­ther the po­lice or se­cret ser­vice”.

“The Le­sotho gov­ern­ment could be en­cour­aged to look into this mat­ter. The above are some of the ar­eas that might need re­vis­it­ing in or­der to move the coun­try for­ward.

“It should be noted that the ob­jec­tive of these re­forms is not to iso­late se­cu­rity ser­vices, but cre­ate a work­ing re­la­tion­ship among them.”

While it is com­mon prac­tice for heads of se­cu­rity agen­cies to be ap­pointed by the head of state, se­cu­rity chal­lenges ex­pe­ri­enced by Le­sotho in 2014 and sub­se­quent con­tro­ver­sies over the lead­er­ship of both the LDF and LMPS has prompted SADC to call for a re­view.

“This ap­point­ment/re­moval process should be re­vis­ited in or­der to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity and faith in the com­mand-struc­ture of the se­cu­rity agen­cies to main­tain their in­tegrity.

“This is there­fore another area ripe for re­view, in or­der to bring se­cu­rity sta­bil­ity to Le­sotho. In­deed, civil­ian over­sight over se­cu­rity ser­vices is one of the key tenets of in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity best-prac­tice,” the re­port states.

on the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue of floor-cross­ing in par­lia­ment, the re­gional bloc rec­om­mends mea­sures that would reg­u­late the prac­tice be­cause “ac­cord­ing to the Com­mon­wealth’s dr Ra­jen Prasad, the prac­tice of cross­ing the floor to join another party af­fects the bal­ance of power in par­lia­ment and can serve to desta­bilise gov­ern­ments”.

The re­port con­tin­ues: “The con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho has no pro­vi­sion reg­u­lat­ing floor-cross­ing. Although floor-cross­ing has been crit­i­cised for giv­ing too much power to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and threat­en­ing Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment’s free­dom of ex­pres­sion…..it can also serve to guar­an­tee the vot­ers’ right to ex­pect that their rep­re­sen­ta­tives will re­main in the same po­si­tion.”

The vote-of-no-con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment, which led to for­mer Premier Thomas Tha­bane pro­rogu­ing par­lia­ment for nine months in june 2014 to avoid his ouster by leg­is­la­tors, has also been ad­dressed by SADC.

The bloc says there is need to relook Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing or­ders and the con­sti­tu­tion in or­der to “en­sure the pri­mary pur­pose of the mo­tion of no-con­fi­dence is re­tained, while pro­tect­ing Le­sotho against po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity”.

Again, the re­port looks at the Pro­ro­ga­tion of Par­lia­ment clause, ad­vis­ing it might be worth con­sid­er­ing a re­view of the man­ner in which the sus­pen­sion is ef­fected.

This, it fur­ther notes, is to en­sure all play­ers un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the “cir­cum­stances, ra­tio­nale and con­se­quences of do­ing so in or­der to avoid con­flicts em­a­nat­ing there­from”.

SADC fur­ther pro­poses that laws pro­vid­ing for the for­ma­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ments in Le­sotho be strength­ened be­cause the Mixed Mem­ber Pro­por­tional (MMP) sys­tem the coun­try adopted in 2000 “is likely to lead to par­ties need­ing to form coali­tions in or­der to form gov­ern­ments”.

“other coun­tries such as Kenya and Zim­babwe un­der­took con­sti­tu­tional changes in or­der to recog­nise coali­tions, a nec­es­sary step af­ter a di­vided elec­tion out­come,” the re­port says.

“In terms of sus­tain­ing coali­tions, dr Prasad is of the opin­ion that this can­not be pre­scribed by law, but is based on the trust and re­la­tion­ship of the par­ties and mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tees that ought to be put in place”.

The de­vel­op­ment of a hand­book on the for­ma­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ments, mak­ing suf­fi­cient time for coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions, and the re­view of rules, prac­tices and con­ven­tions ap­ply­ing to the for­ma­tion of such gov­ern­ments, are some of the rec­om­men­da­tions high­lighted in the re­port. In ad­di­tion, the re­port touches on the call by cer­tain sec­tors of so­ci­ety to re­view the lim­ited func­tions and pow­ers of the Of­fice of the King, re­ferred to as a con­sti­tu­tional/cer­e­mo­nial monarch.

“As such, the King does not en­joy ab­so­lute pow­ers but is lim­ited to what the con­sti­tu­tion and other laws of the King­dom dic­tate; the pow­ers of the King are mainly cer­e­mo­nial.

“The pow­ers of the King are there­fore lim­ited and sub­ject to in­struc­tion from other author­i­ties. other no­table ar­eas re­gard­ing the King’s pow­ers re­late to his assent­ing to Bills by par­lia­ment, where it ap­pears he has no pow­ers to refuse to as­sent to a Bill, on good grounds as head of state.

“other ju­ris­dic­tions have made pro­vi­sions in their con­sti­tu­tions cov­er­ing in­stances where the head of state declines to as­sent to laws that have been passed in par­lia­ment and what ul­ti­mately hap­pens to such laws.

“It is ap­pre­ci­ated that Le­sotho’s sys­tem of gov­ern­ment is mod­eled on the Westminster model where the Queen, as the head of state, also has a cer­e­mo­nial role.

“How­ever, the King­dom of Le­sotho may wish to re­flect on the role of the King in light of his con­sid­er­able stand­ing among the Ba­sotho.”

The re­port fur­ther touches on the un­lim­ited terms of the prime min­is­ter, and notes: “The is­sue of un­lim­ited terms of the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter war­rants at­ten­tion. dis­cus­sions on this is­sue have been trig­gered by the fact that Prime Min­is­ter Mo­sisili, who re­turned to power on 17 March 2015, pre­vi­ously served as prime min­is­ter for a pe­riod of 15 years.

There might also be com­par­isons be­ing drawn with lead­ers in the re­gion or in­deed, most demo­cratic states where heads of states have lim­its to their terms of of­fice, gen­er­ally lim­ited to two.

“It is im­por­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate that un­like most SADC coun­tries with a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, Le­sotho fol­lows the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment mod­eled on the Westminster sys­tem of the United King­dom.

“Un­der this sys­tem, there are no fixed terms, in­stead, the prime min­is­ter may stay in of­fice for as long as their party or coali­tion wants.

“…From the fore­go­ing, the cur­rent sys­tem is not unique to Le­sotho. Granted, it may lead to cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als stay­ing much longer in of­fice and in some cases, re­turn­ing to of­fice. Rather than re­view­ing this sys­tem, it may be worth con­sid­er­ing strength­en­ing in­tra­party democ­racy.

“Re­form pro­pos­als could there­fore tar­get po­lit­i­cal party con­sti­tu­tions that could limit the terms of of­fice of the chair­man/pres­i­dent/ leader of that party.

“If this hap­pens, Le­sotho could have prime min­is­ters that do not stay in of­fice for per­ceived longer pe­ri­ods of times or make come­backs.”

The SADC re­port also touches on de­politi­cis­ing the civil ser­vice, ju­di­cial re­forms that in­clude public in­ter­views when judges are be­ing ap­pointed, as well as media re­forms.

“Since the in­cep­tion of SOMILES,” the re­port notes, “the media has been awash with sto­ries that threaten the po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity sta­bil­ity of Le­sotho.

“Most of these sto­ries, es­pe­cially over the ra­dio, were proved to be ma­li­cious and un­founded. Media trans­for­ma­tion must be ac­counted for as part of the broader trans­for­ma­tion process of Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture and sys­tem.”

The King does not en­joy ab­so­lute pow­ers but is lim­ited to what the con­sti­tu­tion and other laws of the King­dom dic­tate; the pow­ers of the King are mainly cer­e­mo­nial . . . the King­dom of Le­sotho may wish to re­flect on the role of the King in light of his con­sid­er­able stand­ing among the Ba­sotho.

KING Letsie III

KING Letsie III (left) chats with SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor to Le­sotho Cyril Ramaphosa on Fri­day at the Royal Palace in Maseru.

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