Lesotho: Child Protection and Welfare Bill
Urgent Call For Enactment Of Children’s Reformed Law
By Selloane Mokuku
More than 365 days ago, at the closing stages of the 6th parliament of Lesotho (2002 - 2007), the then Minister of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), and acting Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services (MJHCS), Motloheloa Phooko, announced that the 2004 Children’s Protection and Welfare (CPW) Bill, would be enacted as soon as the 7th parliament came into session. More than 301 days on, with the new parliament in session, the minister’s promise has not yet materialized.
Lineo Tsikoane, 18, member of Lesotho Law Reform Junior Committee addressing parliamentarians in 2005 during a UNICEF supported sensitization on the CPW Bill
Lesotho Law Reform Counsel Puleng Mojela said that the Bill is now with the Attorney General’s office. She acknowledged that the enactment process has been slow, but said this should be taken in a positive light, as a lot of clarifications with regard to issues such as new concepts introduced in the Bill are being thoroughly discussed. She said such concepts include diversion and Restorative Justice. Mojela added that the Bill is also bulky and it has taken a while to edit.
The Attorney General Tšokolo Makhakhe confirmed that the Bill was with his office. He echoed Mojela’s sentiments and said the Bill was quite bulky and that it also introduces establishment of certain institutions to monitor children’s rights. Makhakhe said Lesotho has a good policy framework that guarantees the protection and welfare of children and added that the CPW Bill is an improvement on the existing legislative framework. He said the Bill is being constructed to ensure a quality product. Makhakhe could not specify the timeframe it will require for the Bill to be presented for consideration by cabinet before going to parliament. He however confirmed that the Bill would be enacted during the tenure of this 7th Parliament (2007 - 2012).
Mrs. ’Mamosebi Pholo, a member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child expressed her concern about the slow process in enacting the CPW Bill. She said that the Child Protection Act (CPA) of 1980 has a number of shortcomings, and as a result, children are meeting adverse challenges such as property grabbing. These challenges are adequately addressed by the reformed law, the CPW Bill. She added that the committee of experts has highlighted the importance for countries to enact laws that are responsive to the plight of children, as specified in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), which has been ratified by Lesotho. She said that time is of great essence in discussions about children’s protection and welfare. Pholo said that she hoped that some NGO could add a new angle to the discourse and demonstrate the urgency of enacting the CPW Bill.
Other issues to bear in mind in the call for the enactment of the CPW Bill include financial, administrative and monitoring and evaluation procedures and structures required in implementing programmes in support of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). For example, a programme where the European Commission (EC) has pledged Euro 11.3 Million for (2007 - 2010) through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support the delivery mechanisms for cash transfers to OVCs in the MoHSW.
A recent preliminary report on the delivery mechanisms required for OVC support under EU funds recommended the establishment of an independent body that can monitor the implementation of the programme in order to realise children’s rights in a fair and responsive manner.
In an interview, NGO Coalition on the Rights of a Child (NGOC) Chairperson Tsotang Mphethe, said this particular recommendation is in line with the provisions made in the 2004 CPW Bill to establish an independent children’s mechanism. He said that according to the Bill such a body would be known as an Independent Children’s Commission and it would report directly to parliament. Mophethe added that practice in Lesotho is already dictating a new way of handling things with regard to children, and therefore called for accelerated efforts by government to enact the CPW Bill.
The process of reforming the CPA of 1980 was supported by UNICEF, Save the Children Sweden and UK. This was under the project of Child Law Reform Project (CLRP), chaired led by Lesotho Law Reform Commission (LLRC) chaired by Dr. Itumeleng Kimane. UNICEF has been continuously advocating for the enactment of the CPW Bill and has supported sensitization of parliamentarians as well as school teachers and principals on the provisions of the CPW Bill. During the parliamentarian sensitization in 2005 a girl participant from the CLRP junior committee member Lineo Tsikoane addressed the parliamentarians and urged “Please make our dream of the implementation of this Bill a reality, our future is in your hands!”
The Bill is considered as the best practice and going further than any other legislation in Africa in providing for children’s duties and responsibilities as well as handing over authority as far as possible to the community level; an approach viewed by experts in the field as suitable and appropriate in the African context.