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Bombshell Bill



MASERU – Parliament will soon discuss dozens of constitutional amendments that will significantly alter Lesotho’s politics.
The Bill which is the work of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) has been finalised and will soon be put for debate. Some of the amendments have far-reaching consequences like trimming the prime minister’s power and stopping MPs from randomly crossing the floor in parliament.

Submitted in parliament yesterday, the Bill limits the prime minister’s powers to appoint senior government officials based on political affiliation.
It introduces a provision for the prime minister’s impeachment. Under the proposed law a prime minister can only be toppled in parliament by a vote of two-thirds of MPs. Only a simple majority is required under the current constitution.

The Bill says a prime minister shall immediately vacate office after losing the no-confidence vote.
They can no longer advise the King to dissolve parliament and call an election as some have done in the past. It says a motion of no confidence “shall not be introduced more than once in the same session”.

This is meant to stop the abuse of the provision.
There are also changes to the definition of the prime minister’s term of office.

A term of office now means the period from appointment and leaving office regardless of the term of parliament. A prime minister can serve for two five-year terms.
The terms include those that are prematurely ended.

In other words, a prime minister toppled after three years can only come back to serve another five. But if the second term ends before five years, that politician cannot hold office again.
It doesn’t matter even if your two terms last a combined four years.

The Bill says the King may, on the advice of the Council of State and following the recommendation of parliament, remove the Prime Minister from office by way of impeachment.
The grounds for impeachment are “gross and wilful violation of the Constitution or any other law, gross misconduct, as may be prescribed by an Act of Parliament, breach of code of conduct” and inability to perform his duties.

The Bill says any MP supported by at least a third of all the members may move a motion for the impeachment of the Prime Minister.
If the motion is supported by at least 50 percent plus one of all MPs, an interim committee of Parliament shall be formed to investigate the matter and report to parliament within 14 days.

The prime minister shall have the right to appear and be represented during the investigation.
An impeached prime minister “may not receive any pension benefits of that office and may not in future serve in any public office”.

Under the proposed law, a prime minister will not have the power to appoint senior government officials like the Government Secretary and principal secretaries.
The Bill says the government secretary shall be “appointed by the Public Service Commission through a transparent, merit-based, fair, and competitive process”.

However, the government secretary will still be accountable to the Prime Minister.
Appointment to embassies will no longer be based on politics but on merit.

The Foreign Service, the Bill says, shall “be a specialised professional service within the Public Service”.
Political appointees may be appointed only to head certain bilateral missions while the rest of the staff shall be professionals working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Multilateral Missions shall be headed by career diplomats.

“Principal Representatives of Lesotho abroad shall be appointed by the King acting on the advice of the Public Service Commission, following a transparent, merit-based, fair, and competitive process.”

The prime minister will no longer have the power to advise the King to appoint security chiefs.
A special commission will be responsible for the appointment and removal of heads of the army, the police, intelligence agency and the correctional service. Chaired by the king, the commission will be advised by an apolitical security council.

The King will be the commander-in-chief of the army.
Heads of security agencies will be appointed on merit, not political affiliation.

The Prime Minister will no longer have the power to advise the King to appoint senators.
The Senate shall consist of 22 Principal Chiefs and a representative of each clan of the Bafokeng, Baphuthi, Matebele, and Bathepu.

There will also be one representative of people with disability and six other members representing professionals and other sectors.
The Bill seeks to include isiXhosa and isiPhuthi as Lesotho’s official languages in addition to Sesotho and English.

It says the government shall ensure that all official government communication is translated into sign language and Braille.
It gives any person a right to approach a court where they reasonably believe that a right in this Constitution has been infringed or threatened, and the court may grant appropriate relief, including a declaration of rights.

Such people may act on behalf of another person who cannot act on his or her own, or in the interest of a group or class of people.
The person may also act in the public interest or an association acting in the interests of its members, or any other members of society.

An MP representing a constituency may only cross the floor after three years during a 15-day window period declared by the Speaker.
An MP who crosses the floor at any time outside this period “shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly, and a by-election shall be held in that constituency”.
Proportional representation (PR) MPs shall not cross the floor or shall vacate their seat if they expressly renounce the membership of the party whose seat they hold in parliament or joins another

political party.
A political party can reclaim its PR seat if an MP is no longer its member.

Staff Reporter

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