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Matekane meets with opposition leaders over reforms

… as the irate opposition leaders accuse him of stalling the long-delayed reforms process

Bongiwe Zihlangu

PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will tomorrow meet opposition leaders over the long-delayed reforms process.

The legislative and constitutional reforms process was recommended by SADC way back in 2016 to foster peace and stability in Lesotho but is yet to be completed. It has limped through different coalition governments ever since.

The prime minister’s spokesman, Thapelo Mabote, confirmed tomorrow’s meeting in a brief statement yesterday.

The meeting whose theme is “Implementation of the National Reforms Process”, will held be held at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre from 10:00 a.m.

Official Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Democratic Congress (DC) boss, Mathibeli Mokhothu, could not be reached for comment on the meeting at the time of going to print.

However, his fellow opposition leaders Machesetsa Mofomobe and Lekheto Rakuoane said they will go into the meeting with low expectations because Mr Matekane was “not serious” about the reforms.

He had sold Basotho a “dummy” that he would prioritise the reforms process once he was elected. But he was only “cherry picking” pieces of legislation that suited him, charged firebrand Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Machesetsa Mofomobe.

He was referring to the National Assembly Electoral Amendment Bill (2022) approved by Parliament over a week ago which will most likely thwart any attempts to remove Mr Matekane from office for at least three years.

Advocate Rakuoane, the leader of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), said Mr Matekane was not serious because the prime minister had initially met with opposition leaders on 13 February 2023 and then gone AWOL (absent) since that meeting.

“It is evident that a priority for him (Mr Matekane) is what saves him,” said Advocate Rakuoane, also in reference to the government’s decision to push for the electoral amendment Bill, which bans MPs from floor crossing for at least three years after an election.

The Bill was passed amid speculation that a group of disgruntled MPs from Mr Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) had been plotting his ouster. However, that speculation proved to be wild when most of the coalition government’s parliamentary caucus supported the passing of the Bill with no notable misses.

Accusing Mr Matekane of having gone “rogue”, Mr Mofomobe, said the prime minister was “reneging” on every promise he had made to Basotho.

He slammed Mr Matekane for “nepotism” for hiring people who were close to him for key jobs in the government.

“He has put the meritocracy that he promised down the drain. They (RFP) only choose what benefits them, not Basotho. Take the electoral amendment Bill…for instance.  It says it all,” Mr Mofomobe said.

Mr Mofomobe warned Mr Maketane he would need the support of the opposition to pass those reforms laws that require a two thirds majority for approval. He therefore urged the prime minister to come and engage the opposition in “utmost good faith”.

To exemplify that good faith, he said the prime minister must ensure that the Omnibus Constitutional Bill was revived and passed in Parliament before the end of this week. The Omnibus Constitutional Bill encompasses most of the changes envisaged under the reforms process including methods of appointment to key state institutions to avoid politicising them.

Mr Mofomobe said he had already submitted a motion in the National Assembly, proposing that the Bill be revived and passed at “the stage it was when the life of the 10th Parliament ceased.

“My expectation is that the prime minister will listen to us. I have already submitted a motion in the National Assembly, proposing that the Omnibus Bill be revived at the stage it was when the life of the 10th Parliament ceased. I invoked Standing Order 105 (b). The standing order provides for Bills that fell off due to prorogation or dissolution of parliament, to be revived at the stage at which they were when they fell off,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“What we are going to tell the PM on Monday (tomorrow), is that we don’t want the piecemeal approach to the reforms. We want the Omnibus Bill to be passed as is, intact. We are going to ask him if he genuinely wants to work with us. If he does not respond in the way we expect, then we will be left with no choice but to condemn him as an unreliable partner in reforms.

“Mr Matekane will need our support to pass Bills that require a two-thirds majority. To the public, he creates this picture that reforms are ours as a nation. But behind closed doors the story is different, he cannot be trusted,” added Mr Mofomobe.

He said Mr Matekane should discontinue all appointments until the Omnibus Bill had been passed and regulations put in place to halt nepotism and corruption.

Adv Rakuoane said tomorrow’s meeting was long overdue.

“When we met with Prime Minister Sam Matekane on the 13th of February this year, he promised it would take him about a week or so to consult with experts and then revert back …. But since then, we have not met with him……. We are in May now, meaning that it has been several months since…. Instead he has only cherry-picked reforms that suit him and brought them to parliament. That proves he is acting in bad faith,” Adv Rakuoane said.

He said they had even written to the prime minister asking him to desist from firing principal secretaries he inherited from the previous coalition and from making key appointments until the reforms process was completed.  The PM had not responded nor addressed the issues raised.

Tomorrow’s meeting thus appeared like another routine box ticking exercise by the prime minister to try and portray that he was pushing the reforms yet he was stalling, Adv Rakuoane said.  His party expected the prime minister to “begin being serious” and take the reforms process forward as he had been “foot dragging” and “stalling” the process.

He said he was also disappointed that prior to the invitation for tomorrow’s meeting with opposition leaders, the PM had tried to meet with all MPs directly.

“We rejected that. We said that we would first meet with him as the opposition leadership because party caucuses must first get the approval of their leaders…,” Adv Rakuoane said.

“We are accusing this government of stalling the process unless they prove otherwise. They are deliberately stalling the process.”

“It is evident that a priority for him (Mr Matekane) is what saves him; He only picks the best for him. So, we accuse the prime minister of cherry-picking and stalling the reforms process,” Adv Rakuoane said.

He, like Mr Mofomobe, urged the PM to “show good faith” by immediately reviving and ensuring passage of the Omnibus Constitutional Bill.

“We are against this dismembering of the Omnibus Bill into pieces and the cherry picking of what suits him…. Adv Rakuoane said.