PM Majoro speaks of the benefits of SADC PF

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…as Lesotho hosts 50th SADC PF Plenary Assembly virtually

By Lerema Pheea

Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro‘s opening address to the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum highlighted the positive impact the country has recorded in the formulation of legislation to protect the rights of children and women.

Lesotho’s Parliament hosted from the 10-12 December the 50th SADC PF Plenary Assembly virtually.

SADC PF is an inter-parliamentary regional forum with an organ dedicated to motoring the domestication of laws and international treaties in the form of the regional parliamentary model laws oversight committee, including those governing elections, eliminating child marriage and other shared issues.

Majoro said invited the SADC PF as one of the fundamental regional oversight bodies to work with SADC member states to eliminate gross human violation in line with provisions of article 5 (c) and (k) of the SADC parliamentary forum constitution.

The Prime Minister said the participation of founding fathers and mothers of the SADC PF to share their valued perspectives is timely and appropriate.

He said that this will not only equip current members with rich institutional memories of the organization but also will put in place relevant perspectives to support the future of the organization as it transitions into a SADC parliament.

“Since its establishment in 1997, the SADC PF has made a giant stride in its endeavors to assist its sister Parliaments to fulfil their constitutional mandates in democratic consolidation and good governance.

“Lesotho salutes the progress made by the forum in reinforcing transparency and accountability through normative standard setting,” said Majoro.

Majoro added that he acknowledged the significance of the SADC PF model laws as powerful legislative benchmarks for the SADC region and the influence they have on domestic legislations.

Majoro further said that the model law on child marriages was used as reference material by Lesotho’s Members of Parliament and child stakeholders in advocating for a review and amendment of the Child Protection and Welfare Act with the intention to criminalize child marriages.

He added that this legal framework was also instrumental in 2020 when the Ministry of Social Development conducted public awareness campaigns against child marriages in several districts in the country.

“The 50th plenary assembly will consider the SADC model law on Gender-Based violence in its agenda and this is timely and immensely important.

“This Model law will make a significant contribution towards our region achieving gender equality and respect for human rights.

“For us in the Kingdom, this model law, though in draft form, is working as a point reference for our committee on social cluster currently working on the counter domestic violence Bill.

“This bill intends to provide protection of rights of victims and prevention of domestic violence and strives to abolish some of the existing abusive practices which denigrate women and girls.

“It is my fervent hope that the Parliament of Lesotho shall be one of the first to align domestic legislation with this instrument,” said Prime Minister Majoro.

He also added that Lesotho acknowledges the existence of the Forum as a key institutional organ of SADC, whose aims and objective are targeting and enhancement of the dimension and the face of the SADC and her citizenry, without discrimination through targeted parliamentary interventions.

He also said the Plenary Assembly is the driving force for key resolutions that inter alia promote parliamentarism, boost cooperation between SADC countries and strive to implement socio-economic policies poised to improve the quality of life of SADC citizens.

“I recognize the robust partnership framework consolidated by the forum in the last decades, and the consistent endeavors of the forum to engage on SADC on regional strategies which are keen to promote domestication of governance norms that favor the state of democracy.

“Lesotho is one of the member countries which are benefitting from SADC PF program on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and governance through which numerous milestones in the form of dialogue, as well as legislative and regulatory framework, have achieved.

“Through this project, our members and local stakeholders have increased capacity and have managed to elevate the visibility of parliament in the country`s health sector,” said Majoro.

He said that the role that SADC and SADC PF have played over the years in promoting regional integration and democracy cannot go unnoticed.

He continued that as a result of multiple interventions made by this regional institution Lesotho remains a stable peaceful democracy.

Majoro said that Lesotho through the facilitation of SADC is engaged in the institution of reforms targeting inter alia, the constitution, parliament, judiciary, public service, security agencies, economy, and media.

He added, “I am proud to inform you that two very crucial Bills have been submitted to the National Assembly; one is Referendums Bills,2021 which shall pave a way for undertaking referendum in Lesotho.”

“Another one is the eleventh Amendment to the constitution which aims at giving effect to the resolutions of the multi-stakeholders National Dialogue on comprehensive National Reforms”.

He further detailed that the National Reforms (NRA) is currently working on the drafting instructions for the parliamentary service Bill which aims to improve the capacity of parliament to execute its important mandates of oversight and legislation.

Majoro said that the parliamentary reforms will help the Lesotho Parliament to attain minimum legal, normative and institutional standards for democratic legislatures per the SADC PF Benchmarks for democratic legislatures.

He added that he noted with appreciation that the long-envisioned goal of transforming the forum into a SADC parliament has ultimately come to fruition.

“I wish to commend the relentless efforts of the forum in successfully pushing this agenda forward after failed numerous attempts.

“I was one of the last holdouts, arguing that a supranational body can neither oversee sovereign government nor legislation in member countries.

“In end I was persuaded that the existence of such a parliament still has an important role in helping cement the bonds of unity and peace amongst SADC citizens through the pursuit of common legislative standards,” Majoro said.

He added that they need the same rigorous speed and energy in pushing for the Amendment of the SADC treaty as well as the process leading to the ratification of the protocol on the SADC parliament.

He said that he appeals to member countries to support this process and ensure that it is completed without delay and Lesotho will provide the requisite support for the new SADC parliament.