REPORT ON THE LAWS OF LEROTHOLI (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022
THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON THE SOCIAL CLUSTER
National Assembly Phone: +266 22323035 P. O. Box 190 Fax: + 266 22310434
The Laws of Lerotholi (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was tabled before the House by the Hon. Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation on Tuesday, 15th February, 2022. The Bill was referred for consideration to the Portfolio Committee on the Social Cluster (Annex1) in terms of the National Assembly Standing Order No. 51(5).The Ministry responsible for the Bill was subsequently invited to provide the Committee with the policy context, financial implications, contents and effects of the Bill as per National Assembly Standing Order No. 54 (2).
Following the tabling and referral of the above-mentioned Bill, the Principal Secretary and officials held a briefing session relating to the Bill for the Committee on Wednesday 30th March, 2022. After the session, the Committee found it appropriate to grant the following stakeholders an opportunity to submit their views on the Bill to be considered: the Ministry of Local Government, Master of the High Court, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, Women and Law in Southern Africa -Lesotho, Strength for Widows, Widows are Leaders and Widows’ Journey. The public was as well allowed to provide its views on the said Bill to be considered on two local radio stations (Radio Lesotho and Harvest FM.)
This report therefore presents before the House, the findings of the Committee during deliberations on the Bill.
- MINISTERIAL BRIEF
It was explained that the main purpose of the Bill is to amend certain provisions in the Laws of Lerotholi which were promulgated in1903. Adding that, the existing Principal Law has provisions that give only male subjects the right to inherit and treat widows as minors after the death of their husbands. The Laws of Lerotholi further allow the deceased’s sons or brothers to manage his property not his wife and as such, the economic power of the widow
is adversely affected. The Bill therefore attempts to amend such provisions which discriminate women married under customary law.
The Bill seeks to remove all legal restrictions imposed on women under the Principal Act with regard to the full exercise of their economic rights. Besides, the Bill attempts to harmonize the Laws of Lerotholi with the Legal Capacity of Married Person Act, 2006. It further proposes that a widow, in her own right, be able to administer her property without consent or consultations with her first born son, the deceased brothers or any other male subject in the family.
The Bill is intended to allow the widow to inherit all unallocated property upon death of her husband and to dispose the same as she wishes but in line with the best interest of the children in the house without consulting in-laws.
The Bill is one of the preconditions for Lesotho to sign the Second Compact of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) amounting to US$300 million.
Once the Bill is implemented, the Law will not prejudice anyone but it will help in improving the legal and economic status of women married under customary law.
On the issue of financial implications of the Bill, it was mentioned that the implementation of the Bill shall require some funds from the Government.
- Findings during the consultative meetings on the Bill
The public applauded Parliament’s initiative to engage them in the law making process through the portfolio Committee on the Social Cluster, especially the law that will affect their lives on issues surrounding inheritance; a situation that has existed and discriminated widows for a long time. Their views are summarized as follows:
Though the public appreciates the contents of the Bill and its intended spirit, majority of them held the view that Clause 14 fails to meet the intended purpose of the Bill to some extent because it proposes to give a widow full ownership and control of the property of the joint estate and is silent about the rights as well as the welfare of the minor children of the estate. This might result in the abuse of power to administer the property of the estate in which such property might not be used in the interest of the minor children of the estate.
- OBSERVATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE
The Committee has observed that the nation and the international community are passionate about this law which is meant to empower widows economically.
- CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL CLAUSE BY CLAUSE
5.2 CLAUSES WITHOUT AMENDMENTS
The following Clauses were adopted without amendments:
1, 2, 3 and 4.
5.3 SPECIFIC AMENDMENTS
The Committee adopted Clause 5 with the following amendments:
- In Clause 5, delete sub-clause (14)(2) and substitute with the following: “14 (2) The widow shall- (a) have ownership and control of the property of the joint estate after the death of her husband; and (b) take into consideration the rights and welfare of the minor children of the estate and upon her death, the rightful heir shall inherit the estate; however, the heir shall- ”
- In Clause 5, sub-clause (2), after the reference “(3)”, add the word “and renumber sequentially.” 3. In Clause 5, after sub-clause (2), insert new sub-clauses (3) as follows: “(3) The Principal Law is amended in section 14 by adding the following subsections after subsection 4: (5) Where a surviving spouse in the exercise of control and ownership over the property of the joint estate, abuses such powers, the family may intervene; (6) Where a surviving spouse remarries, the property of the joint estate from the previous marriage shall not form part of the community of property of the subsequent marriage.”
After a thorough scrutiny of the Bill, consideration of the Ministerial brief, analysis of the public opinions, the Committee recommends that the Bill be passed as amended (Annex2).
- CONCLUSION Having considered the Bill, the Committee resolved to submit this Report to the House for adoption.
MEMBERS OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON THE SOCIAL CLUSTER
- Hon. M. Fako ( Chairperson) 2. Hon. T. Kholumo 3. Hon. M. Nkhase 4. Hon. M. Seutloali 5. Hon. L. Makgothi 6. Hon. N. Mafa 7. Hon. K. Mokhethi 8. Hon. M. Thamae 9. Hon. M. Mosothoane 10. Hon. M. Koma 11. Hon. M. Mahapa 12. Hon. N. Makoae 13. Hon. M. Monyolo 14. Hon. M. Phohleli 15. Hon. M. Hlalele 16. Hon. M. Rapoto 17. Hon. T. P. Mafojane 18. Hon. T. G. Manyooko