The unopposed election of a political veteran and former Speaker RT. Hon Sephiri Motanyane to the position of a Speaker of National Assembly of the tenth Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho has been received with mixed feelings. Some see this as a treasury and splendid utilisation of one of the finer skills Lesotho’s democracy has ever produced. Others hold a different view, they see election of Motanyane as recycling of people and take it to be a misrepresentation that there are no young minds to replace the old stock.

In his acceptance speech Motanyane expressed joy at the honor bestowed upon him and promised to work hard with dignity and respect for Basotho. His visions which is not different from one he had previously is the improved and autonomous parliament. He identified good governance as necessary ingredient not only to promote image of the country at the international community but also to unlock economic growth, respect of human rights, inclusive reforms and generality of socio-economic problems facing the country. He lamented that “Representation of women, youth, people with disability and vulnerable groups still remains a challenge in the country”. Motanyane is deputised by Alliance of Democrats’ spokesperson Mr. Teboho Lehloenya who thanked Members for their confidence in him and promised hard work.

The election of the speaker of parliament and his deputy followed by swearing in of new Members of Parliament were administered by the Clerk of the National Assembly His Excellency Ambassador Adv. Lebohang Maema.

Before addressing the main question it might be helpful to take readers through a legal process. In terms of National Assembly Elections Act Section 106(4) the Independent Electoral Commission shall declare election results within seven days of election date, publicise the same in the Gazette(Section, 106(7)) and inform the Speaker(Section,106(7)(c)). The constitution says in section 82(1) (b) the first sitting of National Assembly following elections shall be within fourteen days of elections. In that sitting Members shall elect the Speaker and take oath (Section, 71(1) and (2) of the Lesotho constitution).

The argument that Hon Motanyane is an old stock and his election as Speaker represents recycling that bars young people from taking responsibility raises an issue that may not be ignored. Effort should be made to assign young people responsibilities to serve their country. However it would be wrong to exclude better suited and experienced people from serving simply to put youth. The better way which this parliament and its two predecessors opted for is to pair an experienced with the new person. In 2012 Hon Motanyane was deputised by Hon Lekhetho Rakuoane in 2015 Hon Ntlhoi Motsamai by Hon Montšuoe Lethoba and in 2017 Hon Motanyane is deputised by Hon Teboho Lehloenya. Motanyane was the youngest Member in the first modern parliament of Lesotho in 1965 and he returned victorious for all the times he contested elections in his constituency Malibamatšo. He served as a member of cabinet for a long time under Lesotho Congress for Democracy and he brings with him a very rich experience in parliamentary democracy. Among many of his traits Motanyane is respected for his charm offensive approach. At times of tension between government and opposition, he has been a gateway to government and he has maintained open link and communication with civil society even at toughest times.

Though it could be true that there were other reasons for not opposing his name, surely his suitability for the position must be one of. The appraisal of his tenure of office as Speaker in the past would probably attest to this suitability. Though he was in the LCD, he did not agree with the leadership when he was persuaded to inform the King of changes in power configurations in parliament without the House sitting when the Letsema coalition collapsed in 2014. There are several of such tough decisions and rulings he made which put executive power under check. At DPE we share a common view that Hon. Motanyane has mellowed with time and therefore aptly ripe for the task. Congratulations to the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Honourable Members! Looking forward to the robust yet constructive engagement with the House on making parliament independent, responsive and more relevant to the needs of the people it represents.

14th June, 2017: DPE Communications