Lesotho: Celebrating women of firsts

Lesotho: Celebrating women of firsts

Date: December 21, 2022
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Maseru, 15 December: Although the October elections in Lesotho did not result in a dramatic increase in women in parliament, women have become more visible in high level positions than ever before.

The elections, which are held on the basis of a mixed First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) system, resulted in a two percentage point increase in women’s representation from 23% to 25%: just half of the 50% target.

The majority of these women came in through the PR seats in which the electoral law requires that women be equally interspersed in lists. Women made the least headway in the openly contested FPTP constituency seats.

But women in the eleventh parliament are now much more visible in the higher echelons of power. Justice Nthomeng Majara is now the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. This is the first time ever that Lesotho has had a woman deputy prime minister.

Tšepang Tšita ‘Matlhohonolofatso Mosena is Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. Nthoi Motsamai who held office of Speaker from 1999 to 2012 is famous for reminding members of the house not to refer to her as “Madam Speaker, Sir!”

Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane is now the Minister of Finance, the second time a woman has held this post. Nthati Moorosi is the Minister of Information, Communication, Science & Technology, Arts and Culture. Mamonaheng Mokitimi, who served on the 10th Parliament as the President of the Senate, was re-elected for a second term.

The Deputy Prime Minister – the most visible of these high level women – is a woman of firsts on many levels. Majara made history as the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice of Lesotho (2014 to 2019). Before that, she had held several other high-profile positions including lecturing at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

She was also a researcher with the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Educational Trust in the early 2000s. She briefly headed the Internal Affairs Department of the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) before being appointed High Court judge in 2004.

Justice Majara also chaired the Commission of Enquiry on the Adoption of Children in Lesotho and became a member of the Council of State. Outside Lesotho, she briefly served as a judge at the High Court of Namibia in 2010.

While she has held several high-ranking positions, she is undoubtedly best known for her time as Chief Justice of Lesotho. Despite her legal acumen, her highly-publicised fallout with the then Thomas Thabane-led government between 2018 and 2019 attracted more attention than any of her achievements in the judicial post. The then government attempted to oust her over allegations of impropriety and the failure to tackle the huge backlog of cases in the High Court of Lesotho.

She eventually struck a deal with the Thabane administration to leave the post, but not before she had been subjected to a trial in the court of public opinion through protests against her which had the blessings of the then government.

In March this year, she resurfaced as one of the founder members of the newly-formed Sam Matekane-led Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) Party.

The RFP headed almost immediately into elections against established parties like the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Democratic Congress (DC) and many others. .  A total of 12 out of 80 FPTP were won by women, which is only about 15%, an increase of 3% as compared to the 2017 elections. The majority (10) of these women are from the newly formed RFP, with the other two women from the Democratic Congress (DC). Women occupy 18 out of the 40 PR seats giving women a total of 30 out of the 120 seats in parliament (25%).

Majara says she is still a lawyer professionally, but joined politics after a lot of persuasion from the leader of the RFP, to join a team of patriotic Basotho to “save the country from its financial problems and from the brink of collapse.” She said their aim was to turn things around and amongst other things, growing its economy and bettering the lives of Basotho.

Cultural norms in Lesotho have systematically excluded women from participating in all walks of life in Lesotho, including sustaining its economy. Some women have been labelled “feminists” for demanding that Lesotho walk the talk of gender equality.

As a cultural norm, women in Lesotho are not allowed to inherit land or any property after their husband’s death. But the Inheritance Act is being revised to allow for women to have tenure in any of their late partners’ property without having to consult their marital families. This shall give equal land rights to anyone irrespective of their gender.

The high numbers of prominent women in the 11th Parliament should open our eyes to what women who can contribute towards building communities, states and the world.

Photo courtesy of Lesotho Times

(Rethabile Pholo is a member of the Gender Links (GL) Association; former GL Board Member and former Deputy head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho).

One thought on “Lesotho: Celebrating women of firsts”


25% , c’ est déjà un pas franchi par les femmes du Lesotho.
Bravo continuez.
Chez nous en RDC nous en sommes autour de 22% .
Et comme au Lesotho , notre nouveau Président a nommé une vice première ministre Mme EVE BAZAÏBA

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