Lesotho: Office of the Ombudsman

Updated December 2009

Note: See also KAPA, MA 2009 Promoting the Effectiveness of Democracy Protection Institutions in Southern Africa: The Office of the Ombudsman in Lesotho [PDF document], EISA Research report No 39.

The Office of the Ombudsman was established in terms of Section 134 of the 1993 Constitution and the 1996 Ombudsman Act. The ombudsman is appointed for a four-year term by the King acting with the advice of the Prime Minister. The current Ombudsman is Mr. Sekara Mafisa - a lawyer by profession and former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Its mandate is to investigate and recommend preventative and remedial action on complaints related to maladministration, corruption, injustice, human rights, corruption and degradation of the environment. Little or nothing has been done in terms of human rights, corruption and environmental degradation and the focus has been on maladministration (EISA 2003) . The ombudsman intervened in issues such as requests for release of unlawfully withheld salaries; reinstatement of employees illegally suspended from their jobs; and compensation for and repair of houses in communities close to large-scale development projects.

The Office is not adequately resourced and therefore constrained by a shortage of staff, financing and equipment. The Office of the Ombudsman appears to function without undue governmental or political interference according to the Lesotho Country Report on Human Rights Practices (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2007 ) . The report adds that the Office recommended disciplinary action against a prison warder after two prisoners killed themselves following abuse by prison guards; however no action was taken. In 2005 the Office released a report that criticised prison conditions and included recommendations for extensive physical improvements to facilities, more frequent inspections and separate areas within prisons for ill inmates. Authorities improved nutrition but no action was taken to address the other problems.

The ombudsman is required to submit a report annually to parliament. Some of the publicly available reports were successful in bringing attention to various issues. The core function of handling complaints is performed by the Investigations Unit of the Ombudsman's Office. Complaints from the public must be made in writing.

References

BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006: Lesotho.

CONSTITUTION OF LESOTHO 1993, does not contain any amendments, [www] http://aceproject.org/regions-en/eisa/LS/Constitution%20of%20Lesotho%201993.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 8 Mar 2010).

EISA 2003 "Needs Assessment Report for the Lesotho Ombudsman's Office".