‘Dishonest’ Rapapa blasted

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By ‘Majirata Latela

Communications, science and technology minister Tṧoinyana Rapapa has come under mounting fire from lawmakers who threw his two bills out of the window, instructing him to go back and conduct proper consultations.

The Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill of 2021 and Communications (Subscriber Identity Module & Mobile Registration) Regulations of 2021 were tabled in parliament by Rapapa on Monday this week.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa – Lesotho Chapter (MISA-Lesotho), released a statement on Tuesday this week castigating Rapapa’ statement before parliament. It said the minister had claimed that the institute and other network operators were consulted when the bills were drafted.

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During a press conference, MISA Chairperson Nkoale Oetsi Tšoana bittlerly warned Rapapa to desist from lying to parliament as he had not consulted anyone about the bills.

He said on March 23 2021 when the then minister of communication, Keketso Sello, first tabled the bill on Computer Crime and Cybersecurity 2021, Misa was never consulted either by the ministry or Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA).

“However minister Rapapa has been brave enough to lie to such a big institution as parliament that consultations were made, knowing very well that he never consulted with neither us as MISA nor other stakeholders.

“We want to make the minister aware of the lies he is telling parliament in the name of MISA when he says they had consultations with it. We would like to request the minister to respect MISA as it is a big organisation.

“We are happy that parliament was able to see and understand that the ministry never made consultations and made him to go back and do the right thing. We urge him to do the right thing this time because if he will do as he pleases, we will be forced to seek again intervention from portfolio committee on the prime minister’s ministries, departments, governance, foreign relations and information cluster,” he said.

He added that Misa would also go to court if the need arises. That, he added, will be to ensure that the institute is consulted on the two bills which he warned would affect the media landscape.

He cried out that on June 7 2021 MISA was summoned to appear before the cluster committee to deliberate on the Computer Crime and Cybersecurity Bill. It was at that time that the institute laid it bear that it was not consulted when the Bill was drafted.

Tšoana further revealed that when MISA published its stance in March 2021 on the tabling of Computer Crime and Cybersecurity 2021, prime minister Moeketsi Majoro called the institute’s office to say he was aware the organisation was never consulted at the time the Bill was drafted.

According to the MISA Chairperson it was requested that the organisation file its opinions about the to-be legislation although it had already been gazetted by the minister of communication, science and technology.

 “We are aware that with the two bills the minister is targeting the media. He knows very well that we will not support some of the sections in the two bills because media will be adversely affected by the legislation.

“The harsh sentences that are contained in the two bills will be unaffordable for anyone to endure. We will all go to prison if the two bills are passed by the legislators,” he urged.

While critical of the minister’s actions, former chairperson of MISA, Boitumelo Koloi, said the media advocacy organisation was aware that LCA has published an advertisement in a local newspaper inviting public opinion on the Computer Crime and Cyber Security from October 11 2021 to September 30 2021.

During a parliamentary session on Monday portfolio committee’s chairperson on the prime minister’s ministries, departments, governance, foreign relations and information cluster, Lešaba Hlalele, said the committee was fully aware that no consultations were conducted when the bills were drafted.

He said members were notified that computer crime and cybersecurity bill 2021 has combined the two crimes which are computer-related and cybersecurity. He therefore suggested that the committee advised that the two should be separated into two different bills.

 “We have also recognised the heavy penalties on the bills which do not correlate with the crimes. For instance, on illegal interception, the penalty is M10million or 10 ‘ imprisonment and the two penalties do not match,

“The committee therefore advises parliament to withdraw the two bills and give the ministry time to have a look at the bills and do proper consultations,” he said.

Member of Parliament, Tšepang Tšita Mosena, also weighed in to say that all the stakeholders directly affected by the two bills be consulted when the law is formulated.

She added that the committee report should be adopted so as to give people the chance to put forth their own opinions on the bills until closing date of September 30 2021.

She insisted that the bills are good to protect the crimes that people commit using computers and cell phones but recommended that the laws be done in a proper manner that will not negatively affect the operators.

On the other hand, Rapapa sought that the bills be passed in the National Assembly saying it was untrue that no consultations were conducted. He said in March 2021 when the Bill on Computer Crime and Cyber Security was read in parliament, all stakeholders had the chance to deliberate in parliament.

“When I started working as the minister of communications I had a meeting with MISA on the two bills. I also had a meeting with the police and their minister of police and the members of National Security Service. With this I don’t see a point why parliament cannot adopt these bills,” he insisted.

However, the twos were however withdrawn from the debate with the advice of the parliamentary portfolio committee on the prime minister’s ministries and departments, governance, foreign relations and information cluster.

In another development, Rapapa is also accused by the MISA for announcing that cabinet had approved the media policy without informing the MISA which is regarded as the custodian of the policy.

The unwelcome announcement was made by Rapa on September 7 on state owned television.

Tšoana said the organisation was not aware of the approved policy document as there were two different versions of the document. He lashed out that the ministry had designed its own policy without any consultations with the institute.

He said the other media policy was that designed by the National Reforms Authority (NRA) after extensively engaging with the relevant personnel.

 “The reason why we cannot celebrate yet even though the policy which was adopted by NRA was read in parliament is because Rapapa cannot be trusted. We want to lay our hands on the policy which he (Rapapa) says it was adopted by the cabinet. We are yet not to celebrate.

 “We cannot trust him because he can lie… He was lying to parliament about the bills, so what will stop him from lying about media policy?

“We were hoping that by now the minister could have at least called us to let us know which policy has been adopted by cabinet as MISA is the custodian of the policy. We have written a letter to the ministry to ask for the copy which we are still waiting for,” he bewailed.

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