AD381: Disenchanted with democracy, Basotho want reforms limiting PM powers, expanding King’s

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Dispatches
2020
381
Libuseng Malephane

In 2015, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommended that Lesotho undertake wide-ranging reforms of the Constitution, Parliament, the judiciary, and the public and security sectors (Post, 2017). These recommendations followed a 2014 coup attempt, then-Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s escape to South Africa, the assassination of army commander Lt. Gen. Maaparankoe Mahao, and an SADC intervention.  

In pursuit of political stability, all political parties signed an agreement to establish the National Reforms Authority (NRA) in 2019 after a process of citizen consultations and the Lesotho Multi Stakeholder National Dialogues under the guiding document “The Lesotho We Want: Dialogue and Reforms for National Transformation” (Government of Lesotho, 2017).

The resultant In-District Consultations Consolidation Report, titled “Leaving No One Behind” (Government of Lesotho, 2019), outlined citizens’ dissatisfaction with the government’s poor service delivery, doubts about the effectiveness of the reform process, and concerns about the size and costs of Parliament, parliamentarians switching parties (“floor-crossing”), too much power in the hands of the prime minister and too little in the hands of the King, unclear roles for the police and military, as well as “a public service that is lazy, corrupt and indifferent to the needs of the public and a media that is ill-trained and politically aligned.”

Of these thematic areas, the constitutional sector looked at, among others, the powers and terms of office of the prime minister, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament, political conflict resolution mechanisms, the office of the King, the formation of the government and coalitions, and the electoral system and elections management.

Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey show widespread popular support for a variety of proposed constitutional reforms curtailing powers held by the prime minister in favour of enhanced political powers for the King. Most Basotho would welcome replacing elections and Parliament with rule by the King. A majority would reassign the prime minister’s powers to appoint judges and the head of the army and institute direct election, term limits, and age limits for the prime minister.