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Bombshell Bill

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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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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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