Speech by the President of the Senate Honourable ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi on celebrating International Day of Parliamentarism

Statement by the President of the Senate Honourable ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi on celebration of the International Day of Parliamentarism

  1. Introduction

The International Day of Parliamentarism is observed globally on 30th June every year. The day celebrates Parliaments in different ways, through which efforts are made for parliamentary systems of government to improve everyday lives of individual electorates in Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) member countries. The day presents a chance for parliaments to identify challenges which affect good governance and find mechanisms to deal with them effectively. 

Every year, the IPU holds webinars and events for Parliamentarians to share the best practices and identity avenues for action. Furthermore, the IPU advocates for the inclusion of more women and the youth in political leadership and for the adaptation to new technologies. In 2021, the theme for the International Day of Parliamentarism was women empowerment and this year 2022, the interest is in public participation.

Public participation is a process through which the citizens, civil society organisations and government engage in policymaking Abefore a political decision is taken. It is a constitutional right in which people engage actively and effectively in taking decisions on issues which affect their lives at all levels. It provides a platform to identify public concerns, preferences and address them during decision making. Through public participation, the government is rendered accountable and responsive to the needs of the people. Secondly, public participation is important in that it helps in the deepening of democracy.

In Lesotho, public participation dates to the era of Moshoeshoe I (1824-1868) whereby men were allowed to exercise their freedom of speech by expressing their views on issues of national importance at the chief’s court. Today, public participation involves the use of techniques such as public meetings and hearings, advisory committees, interactive workshops, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and other methods to identify public concerns and preferences and address them during decision making. The most common way in which public participation is exercised is when people vote for the government they want in power during the General Elections.

  1. Women Participation

The Constitution of Lesotho provides for political rights for all. However cultural norms and lack of support discourage women from running for a political office. Another challenge is that there are no adequate parliamentary or party-list gender quota systems to ensure women’s substantial representation in Parliament. As a result, there are fewer women than men in Parliament of Lesotho. According to 2017 Lesotho Election Results Notice, there were 28 women out of 120 Members of the National Assembly. This means that after the 2017 National Assembly election, only 23 % of seats in Parliament of Lesotho were occupied by women. Out of 36 Cabinet Members, there were 8 women who amount to 22% of female representation. Again, out of 33 Senators, there were 8 women who translate into 24% of women in the Senate.

In an endeavour to enhance public participation through substantial representation of women in political leadership, the Local Government Act (1997) was enacted. The Act set aside 30% of the Lesotho constituencies for women in respect of the 2005 Local Government elections. Through this Act, the Government of Lesotho was able to achieve the 30% quota system target. For example, women’s representation increased to 58% against 42% representation for men in the 2005 Lesotho Local Government elections. However, it should be noted that the representation of women in the Local Sphere of Government has now decreased from 58% in 2005 to 49% in 2011 and to 40% in the 2017. This means women’s participation in the Local Government has also seriously declined.

  • Youth participation

The youth is not actively involved in politics in Lesotho. They are lacking in ministerial posts and in the Parliament of Lesotho. It is exceedingly essential for the youth to play an active role in the political process to build a stable and peaceful society. It would further help in developing policies that would respond to specific needs of young people such as: unemployment, sponsorships, and business funding. The youth must be familiar with their laws, rights, laws, and policies of the nation because they are leaders of tomorrow. In other words, they must be familiar with national affairs.

  • Public Participation

The core of public participation was in the formation of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) which created the platform for Basotho to contribute to the transformation of Lesotho through national reforms in a bid to bring about national reconciliation, restoration of hope and, thus, build “The Lesotho We Want”. To that end, and through the NRA, Basotho was engaged to make give their inputs on how to overcome political instability and security concerns in the country. Although there are certain groups of people in the society who could not make their input, however the National Reforms Programme has provided the basis for gathering people’s views going forward that will include the views of those left behind in the future on issues of national importance.

  • Recommendations
  • Lesotho Parliamentary Standing Orders

In endeavour to ensure the principle of public participation, the Lesotho Parliamentary Standing Orders were amended in 2007 to incorporate public views on legislation and other parliamentary processes. However, due to limited financial resources the Parliament is not able to go out and get people’s view on issues that affect them. Other avenues such as social media need to be explored to ensure public participation in Parliament.

  • Absence of Legal and Policy Framework

One of the major challenges affecting the public engagement in national issues is the absence of statutory framework regulating or enforcing public participation. Also, there is no visible platform that is set for the public to contribute the policies and national issues. Moreover, the structures and mechanisms are not adequate to enhance and encourage participation.

It is important for the government to improve and encourage public participation because it is a very crucial tool for democracy. The government must provide an easy-to-use platform for innovation and public engagement. Citizens should be encouraged to interact with the government through stimulus like stakeholder forums to enhance more engagement through avenues such as websites and social media for the public to easily air their view where face to face interactions are not possible.

There is need for the empowerment of citizens. The government should consider advancing community-based organisations, councils or activist groups some authority and power to participate in the decision making process to citizens closer to the issues like community groups, councils or activist groups as they can provide insights into on funding allocations and cultural issues and help develop community partnerships. Women and youth should be empowered and encouraged to join politics so that they can be in leadership positions of this country in the future.

In conclusion, public participation in the parliamentary process is a fundamental armament as it touches on key mandates include but not limited to oversight, budget allocation, legislation, and representation.

  • Reference list
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Mulholland, J.2013. 5 Ways to improve Citizen Engagement