Excellencies, Bo ‘Me le Bo Ntate,
It is a great honour and a pleasure for me to address this landmark conference. The reforms have been on your and my agenda since my arrival in this country, two years ago. A lot of valuable work has been done: A roadmap for the Lesotho you want has been established with United Nations support, Plenary I of the Multi-Stakeholder National Dialogue was held almost exactly one year ago, consultations with Basotho from all walks of life and in all corners of the Kingdom were conducted, conferences were held, and there were numerous debates in and outside the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC). Today we have reached the conclusion of the dialogue phase of the reforms.
While this is a reason for celebration, let us briefly reflect on why reforms are necessary? Lesotho is a country with solid democratic foundations and traditions, and a country with great potential. However, the constitutional and legal framework is not quite in line anymore with the political and social dynamics of the country. It has not been able to ensure the stability of government, the security of all citizens, and the predominance of the common good over particular or personal interests.
This is of course not exclusive to the Kingdom of Lesotho – every country or political entity needs to review and update its governance structures from time to time in an ever-changing world.
For Lesotho, let me mention a few symptoms which show that such a review is expedient:
Too many governments have not completed their term in the past decade;
Too many people have perished in recurrent political violence, or due to the acts of rogue elements in the security forces;
Too many Basotho look towards the government for employment in a country which officially states - in its National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) - that the private sector should be the engine of growth and employment creation;
Too many Basotho seek work in South Africa, often in very difficult conditions and without permits; and too many people are struggling to make a living, or without any formal employment at all;
Too many people are languishing in prisons, waiting for months or even years for their trials because of an under-resourced judiciary;
Too many people are going hungry because they have already been living in precarious conditions, before the drought pushed them over the brink;
Too many economic opportunities have been lost because instability, political uncertainty or corruption have discouraged investments or distorted fair competition, which is essential for a healthy economy;
Too many chances for political & social reconciliation have passed unnoticed because they were overshadowed by deep rooted distrust & suspicion among politicians, or because personal ambitions have prevailed over public interest.
But vigorous proposals to change all this have been produced by the national dialogue, and these proposals are now in front of you. By formally adopting these and taking the right decisions, you shape the future of the Kingdom; you can set the course for a better Lesotho for the present generation and for those to come.
Today you can make history. This conference can be a crucial turning point in the fate of the Mountain Kingdom if its recommendations are fully and faithfully implemented.
Excellencies, Bo ‘M'e le Bo Ntate,
Change will not come overnight. It will take time and the next phase of the reforms, the implementation, will require a lot of effort, patience, and a strong sense of cooperation and compromise. You have set the direction and on behalf of the European Union, I congratulate you all, including the SADC Facilitation team under Your Lordship, Justice Moseneke, as well as the National Dialogue Planning Committee and the National Leaders Forum, for the good work that has been accomplished. I encourage you to stay on course to bring this process to a successful conclusion. Your international partners, SADC, the UN, the EU, and many others will be with you to support you in your endeavours.
Khotso, Pula, Nala !