MPs must embrace change

MPs must embrace change

Lesotho has for a long time been hailed as being ahead of her peers in southern Africa with regards to the literacy rate. At the same time, we also have a very huge number of unemployed graduates. That is a very sad situation that needs to be tackled urgently by those who have the authority to do so.
Yet despite the high literacy rates, and the high number of graduates, Lesotho remains one of the poorest countries in the world. What we should be asking at this stage is: What should be done to change the current status quo in Lesotho?

In this regard I would like to pin my hopes on the ongoing reforms, in particular the envisaged parliamentary reforms. A sneak peek into the report by the National Dialogue Preparation Committee seems to suggest that Basotho are fully aware of the importance of education and the role it can play in the development of this country. The report indicates that during the community dialogue consultations, a suggestion was made by the communities to amend section 58(2) (c) of the Constitution of Lesotho, 1993. This is a section that stipulates qualification for membership in parliament.

The community noted with great worry that the section is silent on the qualifications that MPs should possess for them to qualify for a seat in the august House. Instead the section only just stipulates that a potential member should be a person who can read and write Sesotho and/English.
Basotho have spoken and recommended that a person to be elected to the National Assembly as an MP should at least be in possession of a Bachelor’s degree. This suggestion is made in line with objectives of the report, some of which stipulates that the parliamentary reforms are meant “to empower parliament as a custodian of values and principle of democracy to fulfil its constitutional mandate of legislation, oversight and representation”.

The other objective is stipulated as “to increase participation of parliamentary processes.”
These activities can be achieved only when there are robust debates in parliament. Also such debates should be informed and well researched so that they contribute meaningfully to the development of the country.
With respect to this suggestion by Basotho, the suggested type of action to be taken is that, “Section 58(2) (c) of the Constitution of Lesotho should be amended to provide for academic qualification for eligibility for MPs”.

The thinking is that MPs with university degrees will improve the quality of debates in Parliament. That is a very persuasive argument.
The report further argues that “great care must be taken to avoid (creating an) elitist parliament that is out of touch with the interests of the people it is supposed to represent. It is recommended that MPs must have at least ‘O’ level qualification.”

I have no personal vendetta against people who can only read and write. However, we need to deeply and with all honesty ask ourselves as Basotho if we still need MPs that only possess basic skills of reading and writing in the 21st century. Even though I think the idea of MPs with first degrees might be overambitious, I also think that the suggestion of “O” level candidates is not actually serving us much justice. For me I would suggest that the prospective MPs should at least be in possession of a Diploma.

Conversely, the envisaged changes are supposed to be effected by our current MPs. This creates a possibility that the suggestions could be thrown out of parliament. I do not see any MP in the current parliament who does not possess the credentials for the set criteria voting for this change. If they vote for this amendment, it wold mean they are taking bread out of their own mouths, a situation I think is unlikely to happen.

It is at this stage that I borrow from the report where it says “Change is coming down upon us like an avalanche” (Brown & Harvey, 2006). I am pleading with the MPs to think of Basotho and Lesotho first, as they always claim to represent us, and allow the winds of change to blow them in the right direction. Change, although it is always inevitable, is not easy to accept, but at the end of the day it is important that we embrace it.
Let us emulate other countries by making an effort to have a parliament that we shall all be proud of. We should strive for a parliament with members that can represent us in a noble manner.

kelello Rakolobe

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