Women lawyers ta­ble re­forms de­mands

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

WOMEN lawyers have called for the in­clu­sion of fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the pro­posed Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion as well as the es­tab­lish­ment of a tri­bunal to set­tle dis­putes that may arise from the work of the same com­mis­sion.

Since its ad­vent to power in June 2017, the Thomas Tha­bane-led four party coali­tion gov­ern­ment has been con­sult­ing var­i­ous stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions as part of ef­forts to build con­sen­sus on the multi-sec­toral re­forms the coun­try needs to im­ple­ment.

The con­sti­tu­tional, se­cu­rity sec­tor, pub­lic ser­vice, gov­er­nance and me­dia re­forms were part of the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the re­gional South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) in 2016 to en­sure last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity which is cru­cial to the coun­try’s so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Women Lawyers (FIDA) rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ma­bela Lehloenya, said that “fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion” of women in the pro­posed com­mis­sion was nec­es­sary to achieve in­clu­siv­ity, cred­i­bil­ity as well as jus­tice for women whose con­cerns were not given ad­e­quate con­sid­er­a­tion in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and leg­is­la­tion.

She said this dur­ing her re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on Law and Pub­lic Safety.

She said women should there­fore be in­cluded among the com­mis­sion­ers in the com­mis­sion to be es­tab­lished to steer the re­forms as pro­posed in the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill of 2018.

The Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill was tabled be­fore par­lia­ment on 17 Jan­uary 2017.

The bill seeks to pro­vide for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion whose man­date is to fa­cil­i­tate na­tional dia­logue on the re­forms rec­om­mended by SADC to achieve last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho.

The en­vis­aged com­mis­sion shall be com­posed of six com­mis­sion­ers and led by a re­tired judge or any other em­i­nent per­son.

It will op­er­ate for an ini­tial pe­riod of 18 months with a pro­vi­sion for another 12 month ex­ten­sion to en­able it to com­plete its man­date.

Ms Lehloenya how­ever said the word­ing of the bill was too gen­eral and should be spe­cific about fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the com­mis­sion.

“The com­po­si­tion of the com­mis­sion leaves out the bulk of the so­ci­ety’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives as it also does not in­clude those with other forms of ex­per­tise, other than purely le­gal or civil ser­vice ex­per­tise,” Ms Lehloenya said.

For its part, the Women and Law in South­ern Africa (WLSA) rec­om­mended an in­crease in the num­ber of com­mis­sion­ers to seven from the en­vis­aged six.

WLSA Co­or­di­na­tor, Libak­iso Matlho, said the sev­enth com­mis­sioner should be a promi­nent in­di­vid­ual who was knowl­edge­able and ex­pe­ri­enced in gen­der is­sues to en­sure that gen­der is­sues were main­streamed into the re­forms process.

Ms Matlho said it was im­per­a­tive for women to have at least 30 per­cent rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the pro­posed com­mis­sion to en­able them to in­flu­ence the de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Back in 1997, Le­sotho joined other SADC coun­tries in com­mit­ting to en­sur­ing the equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women and men in the de­ci­sion­mak­ing po­si­tions of mem­ber states and SADC struc­tures at all lev­els by 2015. The SADC coun­tries also com­mit­ted them­selves to the achieve­ment of at least 30 per­cent rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in po­lit­i­cal and de­ci­sion mak­ing struc­tures by the year 2005 in­clud­ing par­lia­ment.

But 13 years down the line, Le­sotho is nowhere near meet­ing the 30 per­cent bench­mark on women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in par­lia­ment and other de­ci­sion-mak­ing struc­tures. Hence the call by the women lawyers.

Ms Matlho called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a tri­bunal to re­solve any dis­putes that may arise when peo­ple were sub­poe­naed by the pro­posed Re­forms Com­mis­sion.

Sec­tion 3 (b) of the Re­forms Bill states that the Com­mis­sion shall have pow­ers to “sub­poena any per­son to pro­vide oral or writ­ten in­for­ma­tion to the Com­mis­sion where it con­sid­ers such in­for­ma­tion nec­es­sary for achiev­ing its ob­jec­tives”.

The women lawyers’ de­mand for rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the pro­posed com­mis­sion fol­lows a sim­i­lar call by the Le­sotho Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Or­gan­i­sa­tions of the Dis­abled (LNFOD) for one of the com­mis­sion­ers to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

LNFOD Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Nkhasi Se­futhi, last week told the Le­sotho

Times that his or­gan­i­sa­tion wanted at least one com­mis­sioner “who is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of per­sons with dis­abil­ity and knowl­edge­able and ex­pe­ri­enced in dis­abil­ity rights, to sup­port other com­mis­sion­ers on the main­stream­ing of dis­abil­ity rights in the re­forms”.

“We have im­por­tant is­sues that we would like to be in­cor­po­rated be­cause we have re­alised that we are al­ways left be­hind when­ever gov­ern­ment is work­ing on en­hanc­ing democ­racy and hu­man rights sim­ply be­cause no one un­der­stands our con­cerns very well,” Adv Se­futhi said.

WLSA Co­or­di­na­tor Libak­iso Matlho.

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