Hon. Mosena speaks as Lesotho hosts SADC Plenary Assembly

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By Mamello Mosaefane

Lesotho’s member of Parliament representing the house in the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), Hon. Ts’epang Ts’ita-Mosena says representing the Kingdom in the region’s Parliament has personally improved her activeness in the National Assembly of Lesotho.

Lesotho will be hosting the 50th SADC PF Plenary Assembly virtually from 10th-12th December 2021. This will according to Rt Hon. Sephiri Motanyane be the second time the Kingdom hosts the SADC PF.

Specific for the Plenary Assembly, Mosena said the SADC PF does not have any agenda item that is specific for Lesotho but the forum holds the Plenary in a wide vision manner. She said the agenda or proceedings are normally the same for all the member countries.

Mosena told KDNews in an interview that the Plenary Assembly will be centered around its past proceedings, with committees providing reports, presenting motions if any, and making recommendations for adoption.

She said the plenary attendance is characterized by a delegation of six MPs from each SADC Member State, where one of the MPs is a presiding officer leading the delegation.

“That means only those six are conversant with the business of SADC Parliamentary Forum because they are the ones who are engaged directly.

“The exposure that they get there is applicable mostly to them. The only way we bring the business of the SADC PF to the country is by the reports that we bring as members of the PF to our own Parliament,” Mosena said.

She emphasized as the country hosts the SADC PF Plenary Assembly this coming Friday, there will be more legislators from the Kingdom that will be exposed to the business of SADC PF.

“They have an opportunity to network with other MPs,” she added.

Mosena said hosting countries always have the advantage to present themselves: our tourism, our culture, our county, the opportunities, and so on.

She adds that “There is always that moment for that particular country only, to sell itself to the region”.

Another opportunity, Mosena said, is there is the main speaker who will be doing a presentation on any topical issue.

She further added that being the host, Lesotho has a chance to utilize the event to market itself to the region and the world.

“And that helps particularly when you are talking of Africa free trade continental area because if the member states know what Lesotho is doing then they can easily find themselves working with us and increasing that inter-trade within the African region. That is also an opportunity, She said”

She said if the PF comes here, that means all MPs who want to make use of that opportunity.

“I am saying those that will want because in parliament you work when you want.

“When you don’t want, you don’t. It’s not like there is anything that will be done to you except that your constituency might decide not to elect you back into parliament, but there really is no punitive measure taken against MPs that are not performing in Parliament,” Mosena said.

She also said when people get into Parliament, there is this belief that they know everything, how business is conducted, and people get surprised when getting into it and they are not participating.

According to Mosena, there is a certain way of doing things and when one has not been exposed to other countries and how they do business, they lack confidence, the knowledge, and the know-how of what they can bring to parliament.

Speaking on how she has personally benefited from being part of the SADC PF, Mosena said “A lot of what I do in parliament is very much influenced by SADC PF. I am a very engaging person. I like learning. I use an opportunity of SADC PF a lot”.

“When I compared the way in which business was done and the level of the SADC MPs, I saw a very high standard. Therefore, I had to quickly adopt that level. That is why I am very engaging in parliament.

“I have learned from them and it has always been a beautiful opportunity.

“It helps when you are able to interact with other MPs because you are able to get a one-on-one basis and ask questions and determine solutions to issues that you find problematic in your country. That is what I do. I always ask questions on how others are dealing with certain issues in their space.

“I have gotten a lot of recommendations on the way I conduct business in parliament, which is something I have learned from the PF. The motions that I raise in Parliament, are influenced by the motions I saw in the SADC PF or the motions that our counterparts bring from their countries. I, therefore, customize those that I find applicable to my country.

“For example, the issue of protecting indigenous business, which I am very proud of, where I did a motion which became a law because there are reserved businesses for Basotho,” She said.

Mosena said she is focused on everything that talks to the economy of the country because one of our party’s policies is a measure is to uplift the economy

“You look into the SADC and see that Botswana is applying this and their economy is growing really fast, and I decided to put a motion in Parliament for Basotho to have reserved business for them,” she said.

Mosena also shared with KDNews some of her reasons she joined parliament, saying “I wanted to be the voice of women. I wanted to be the voice of youth and I wanted to be the voice of business. These things were not apparent before.”

She confidently adds “We know for a fact now that anything that has to do with women or youth in Parliament, people are looking forward to my opinion.”

She said this is because she has realized that in some countries, one needs to have a brand that people recognised them by, something they fight for when they get to Parliament.

Also, from the way people present themselves in the SADC PF, Mosena said she gained a lot of confidence from what she saw out there.

She, therefore, said she thinks she is also influencing other MPs to start being vibrant members of the august house.

Mosena also said SADC PF deals with issues of common interest in the region, of which gender-based violence has for the longest time been an issue of concern to the forum.

“The PF funds parliaments to empower the PMs to get involved in topical issues like Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

“It also funds them to get involved in knowing what issues are pressing in the country, how they can get involved, what influence they can put and what changes they can make,” she added.

Gender-based violence, Mosena said, became one of the issues that appeared in the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, where all the women in the SADC PF become members.

This women’s group, Mosena said looks into issues related to gender, women, and youth.

She said the caucus recommended that all countries should have a gender-based violence law following a study that was conducted, which revealed such law is there in some countries but not there in others.

She further added that “When you are a member of that and realize you do not have such a law in your country, it pinches you as to what is it that is done in your Parliament”.

“Lesotho has been talking about domestic violence forever, but there was nothing done. SADC PF had much influence because I ended up pushing for Lesotho to have the Counter Domestic Bill.”

She also emphasized on SADC PF advocacy for gender equality, saying in all its committees’ gender equality is a must.

The forum, Mosena said, is not bothered by the imbalances in members’ country Parliament, there is always gender balance in the PF; 3 men and 3 women in committees or a man is the chair the woman is a vice or vice versa.

The balanced representation of both men and women in the SADC PF is for Mosena what she wishes Lesotho could replicate from the SADC PF as the Kingdom because “we still have gender imbalance issues”.

Mosena is however hopeful for higher numbers of women shall in the future be a reality.

Speaking on the hope for full free trade amongst the SADC countries and working towards one currency, Mosena said the Government has 3 arms; the executive, judiciary, and Parliament which do not work in tandem.

“SADC PF is a body, which is a collection of SADC Parliaments without necessarily having legal standing in the framework of governance in the region.

“We have the executive and judiciary arm of SADC, but the Parliamentary arm doesn’t exist. We call it a forum because we are not a parliament yet.

“Decisions are made by the regional executive, which is the SADC summit,” she said.

She said this in emphasis that as members, they can only wish for things to happen, but it is difficult for some to fully be executed because the forum is not a parliament yet.

“Just like in our respective Parliaments, as members of the PF we are like backbenchers with influence.

“We only influence the executive and they are the ones that decide on what should be done. The how part of it is decided by them.

“We can just tell them we want the business to grow, but they are the ones who decide on how they will do it.

“Yes, we do come up with motions that guide how things should be done, but the administration is all on the executive.

“That is the same as the regional trade, where members of the PF influence on how the PF operates in the region.

“While at the forum, we talk and discuss and make recommendations on things that could be done, but if the executive does not implement there is nothing done,” said Mosena.

She however said when the PF becomes a parliament, whatever that they as members suggest will become part of the executive’s business and they will not attend to things only when they want to.

“With the issue of trade, we can recommend ways in which we would like inter trading of countries to be handled and the executive works on how it will implement such in the region,” she added.

She also said they come in as members where they look into the opportunities that each country offers.

She said this is the same as in our country, where MPs only influence and push the executive but nothing happens in the end.

Asked on how soon the forum will officially become a parliament, Mosena said they are transforming towards being a Parliament and that the forum just got authorization to transform into a SADC Parliament.

“I personally do not see the PF becoming an official SADC Parliament before the next plenary session after this upcoming one,” she said.

Lesotho is hosting a first PF after authorization for it to become a Parliament.

Addressing the PF’s approach in the way its member states on the handling of Covid-19, Mosena said SADC member states the biggest challenge was that every country was left to fend itself financially for too long and that impacted members’ economies badly.

She however said SADC had set rules and regulations on how its member countries should deal with Covid-19, something she said is good and interesting.

“The role that was played by the SADC PF later was to collage the member states, exchanging ideas on how we handled Covid-19 in our respective countries.

“The good thing about that is there are some lessons learned there. If you listen well as a country, then you might realize that you could have handled things In a different way or see other opportunities to implement things the way other countries did.

“What helped in this situation is solidarity because we got to realize that we are not alone in the struggle. It sort of eased the pressure and gave us hope in knowing that were are together in this.

“A collective voice helps, where we have a body to do things together because we negotiate better when we are a group, even when we approach big banks.

“And that is an advantage of becoming a Forum because we have a stronger voice when we are together than when each country seeks for help alone on its challenges.

“We were able to share our challenges, which is one of the functions of the SADC PF; sharing opinions when we have issues of common interest and addressing them as a collective.

“Also, this is not only a SADC thing but a global one, that we upgraded very fast to telecommunications because we had to use virtual meetings, which forced us to focus on improving the infrastructure as far as technology is concerned,” Mosena said.

She said another thing that SADC PF does is to produce model laws, regional Bills from which member states formulate laws based on to fasten the pace they do laws.

This is one of the benefits that the members get from the forum because when you engage during Bill discussions, you are able to customize such to fit into your country.

She however said Model laws are not binding, they are just there to help one navigate the process when laws are made.

“As collective states, we sometimes disagree on certain model laws.

“This was the case with the model law on child marriages. There were some differences on whether to use 18 as the legal age for marriage or 16 because in some countries girls get married at a very young age, and such countries felt the model law was unfair,” she said.

She also added that as much as the SADC has the model law has 18 as legal age, countries can customize it to suit their respective countries.