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Parly committee meets massive resistance

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

‘Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Committee is facing massive resistance from some government institutions over which it expects to exercise parliamentary oversight, the Lesotho Times has learnt,

A case in point is the recent refusal by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to furnish the Committee with reasons why a “pensioner”, Advocate Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa was appointed PSC chairperson last month.

Adv Mahase-Moiloa served as the country’s Law and Justice Minister in 2007, before becoming Lesotho’s Ambassador to Belgium from 2013 until 2018.

She holds a Master’s degree in Governance and Political Transformation, Governance and Politics from the University of Free State in South Africa, as well as a law degree from the National University of Lesotho.

However, both the PSC and JSC rejected the Committee’s 27 June 2023 request on the grounds that they were autonomous bodies whose actions could not be influenced by anyone, including parliament.

JSC secretary, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai, further advised the Committee to petition the courts for redress if it was not satisfied with the appointment of Adv Mahase-Moiloa.

As PSC chairperson, Adv Mahase-Moiloa automatically became a member of the JSC, which also consists of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, High Court Judge Justice Polo Banyane and Attorney-General Rapelang Motsieloa.

Adv Sekoai is the JSC secretary by virtue of being the Court of Appeal and High Court registrar. She rejected the committee’s request through a letter dated 29 June 2023.

“I wish, through your savingram, to bring to the attention of the Portfolio Committee that in terms of Section 133 (8) of the Constitution, the JSC is not subject to the direction and control of any person or authority in the discharge of its functions,” Adv Sekoai wrote in the letter.

“This means that the Commission is answerable to no other organ or State or arm of Government. Any person or body who is unhappy about its decision can take them to judicial review.

“What the Portfolio Committee seeks from us is to account for the Commission’s discharge of its constitutional functions, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. This is therefore, not constitutionally permissible.”

Echoing similar sentiments, the PSC also said the parliamentary body could not summon the Commission to appear before it as this would be “intrusive” to its responsibilities.

“The Commission is invited to note that in terms of Section 136 (11) of the Constitution of Lesotho, the Commission, in execution of its mandate, is not subject to control or direction of any other person

or authority,” said PSC secretary, one Ms Mokhehle, through a letter dated 4 July 2023.

“The Commission noted that the Committee previously invited it to appear to discuss its operations. As such, the Commission finds the Committee’s invitation to give an account for the discharge of its functions as intrusive to its mandate. In our humble submission, this goes against the grain of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 establishing the Public Service Commission.”

Meanwhile, apart from the JSC and PSC, the Committee had recently also been “undermined” by the National Security Service (NSS) Director-General, Pheello Ralenkoane.

Mr Ralenkoane had been summoned to appear before the Committee on 4 July 2023 and again on 10 July 2023, over the involvement of the spy agency in the murder investigation of journalist Ralikonelo Joki, who was shot dead in Maseru on 14 May 2023.

However, Mr Ralenkoane, who refused to respond to the Committee’s enquiry on 4 July, has since said he would not reappear before the same oversight body again over the journalist’s killing.

The Committee’s chairperson, Rethabile Letlailana, who is the Revolution For Prosperity legislator for the Lithoteng constituency, told the Lesotho Times this week that despite the “resistance”, the parliamentary body would not back down from its mandate but keep pushing for accountability.

“It is true that we faced with resistance from heads of ministries and individuals from who we expected better. However, that will not discourage us from doing what is right. We have since noticed

that there are those who think we are fighting the (RFP) party, but that’s not the case.

“We will keep on pushing until everyone understands that we are only doing our job and have no

personal vendetta against anyone,” Mr Letlailana said.

According to a source within the RFP, this resistance is coming from people who have allegedly

hijacked the developmental “vision” of  RFP leader, Sam Matekane.

“They have even mobilised some of the youth beneficiaries of government programmes to attack the Committee and all its intentions as they feel that they are being barred from doing as they please.

“These people are busy hiring their own friends and relatives, hence they are attacking the same Committee as it is trying to fix things. The RFP is waging a war against itself, and the cracks are so visible that even a novice in politics can see them. Everyone is doing as they please and no one wants to take orders from anyone,” the source said yesterday.