Lesotho Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
- Legislators have failed to pass two critical bills during the 10th Parliament.
- SADC and the EU want to see reforms ahead of elections on 7 October.
- A court challenger says there are no grounds for a state of emergency in Lesotho.
Lesotho’s Constitutional Court will on Tuesday hand down rulings on two matters challenging the legality of the state of emergency and the king’s decision to reconvene Parliament.
On Wednesday, media activist Kananelo Boloetse filed court papers challenging the legality of the state of emergency.
Then on Thursday, Law Society of Lesotho deputy president Lintle Tuke also filed papers arguing t King Letsie III had no legal mandate to reconvene Parliament.
The applications were made after the king, through a government gazette on Tuesday, recalled Parliament for a period of six days to pass the 11th amendment to the Constitution Bill 2022 and National Assembly Electoral Amendment Act – two laws deemed critical ahead of the 7 October general elections.
Both laws are part of the electoral reforms that have been pushed for by SADC and the international community, the European Union (EU) in particular.
The current Parliament’s term ended on 14 July.
According to the country’s Constitution, it must be dissolved at least 90 days before the next general elections.
Thus, for Parliament to reconvene and make crucial decisions, it can only do so under a state of emergency.
As such, Letsie found leverage to recall Parliament after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro declared a state of emergency on 16 August.
Political analyst Lebohang Hlalele is of the view the prime minister and the king took this route because SADC and the EU are looking forward to credible elections that can be guaranteed by legal instruments.
“It’s a cut and join approach. Parliament failed under its watch to pass the bills into law and Lesotho’s electoral reforms were discussed at the SADC Summit in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, two weeks ago.
“For the first time in history, the EU has an observer team coming for the elections. Fears are that if the reforms are not in place, the country’s international aid partners won’t be pleased,” Hlalele said.
Boloetse, in court papers, also made similar allegations Majoro called for a state of emergency to address the interests of the country’s international partners.
“The prime minister goes further to mention that Lesotho relies heavily on international partners for financial and investment support which is linked to reforms agenda and therefore, on the basis of foregoing, Lesotho is therefore in a state of emergency,” he said in the court papers.
Boloetse added the law was being used to find solutions to a political crisis.
“It can hardly be true that a state of political stagnation, mismanagement, [and] lack of proper governance constitutes a state of emergency within the confines of our Constitution.
“To argue otherwise would be to justify a state of emergency that would evidently be a problem,” he said.
In his court challenge, Boloetse argued there was no reason for a state of emergency in Lesotho because situations that allowed for that were the existence of either a war or a natural disaster might be declared in between the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of general elections.
When challenging the recalling of Parliament, Tuke argued Letsie was recalling Parliament based on a flawed decision of the state of emergency, and as such he was overreaching his mandate.
Majoro and Letsie are respondents in both cases.
As such, Majoro argued there “are man-made” reasons for him to arrive at calling for a state of emergency.
These are fears of civil unrest if the two laws are not passed and an election goes ahead.
“The exercise of emergency powers by myself in the context of this case was meant for the preservation of democracy and to safeguard the existence of the national stability and prosperity,” Majoro said in his application.
Letsie did not file any papers.
Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane as well as justices Teliso Monapathi and Maliepollo Makhetha are expected to make a ruling on both matters on Tuesday.
If the state of emergency is nullified, then it will follow Letsie acted outside his mandate in reconvening Parliament.
That would mean Lesotho would go to the polls without fulfilling pre-election conditions.
The TIF News Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.