Dear Minister and Deputy Minister of Local Government,
I greet both of you in the name of peace, rain and prosperity for the whole of the Basotho Nation, especially the poor in the rural areas.
First, I congratulate the deputy minister for his appointment to the executive of this wonderful and great ministry. I wish you all the best sir.
Secondly, I wish to stress from the outset that this open letter is penned in my absolute personal capacity as the citizen of Lesotho.
Please treat it as such as far as possible.
It inflicts great pain to me as a citizen of our beloved fatherland to see our local government system failing to adequately respond to our needs, especially us the rural folk.
We continue to live in abject poverty whereas we believe the local government system would stimulate our social and economic development.
The failure of the system is the lack of developmental focus in it.
The solution lies in making the system more developmental and performance oriented.
I now discuss briefly how our local government system would be of benefit to all of us.
Firstly; local authorities should have very strong political decision makers (councillors) who know very well their terms of reference.
Improve the mayorship from the present ceremonial to the executive type whereby they would crack the whip and not run after the desires of the civil servants.
The mayors may be able to appoint their cabinets which would serve different portfolios in order to better run their local authorities.
Secondly; the local government staff should be purely appointed based on merit and capability to perform their jobs in the most dedicated way.
They should owe their allegiance only to the King and the Basotho nation, not to their political leaders.
Notwithstanding, the civil servants should be highly disciplined and value and respect their political office bearers as their policy makers and political principals.
The third point relates to fiscal decentralisation.
Yes, capacitate the local authorities to generate their own revenues through local legal means.
Without the funds, the local authorities can barely function.
Service delivery needs clear and adequate funds to be realised.
Empowering the councils to generate their own means of operations would encourage the concept of New Public Management whereby an organisation would function the same way as the private enterprises in maximising service delivery and returns on investments.
This should be done in the most intelligent way so as to protect the poor and the marginalised.
Fourthly, community development programmes should be the order of the day.
The communities should be encouraged to participate in the development programmes that are meant to uplift their living standards.
Local government should be embedded within the communities, business and the civil society.
The state-civil society-business-community relations should be evermore cordial in order to boost development.
When development is boosted and augmented, monitoring and evaluation of performance should take centre stage.
Performance management should be improved and encouraged more.
Failure to perform according to the set standards should make the civil servant liable to serious sanctions and make the councillor liable for recall.
Lastly; our local councils should be able to produce holistic and strategic development plans which would explicitly contain what we, the people, want our future to look like.
These plans should be prepared by the people with the support and assistance of the planning staff.
They should take into consideration the vulnerable state of our natural environment.
We should go the sustainable development route where the councils should be the champions of the “green development”.
On the cross-cutting issues our strategic focus and thrusts should empower the youth, women and people with disabilities to be part in building the societies in which we all have a stake.
Local governments should rigorously address HIV/Aids head on and develop strategies on local economic development.
Ours should be a hands-on local government system that is responsive to the people’s needs.
All these could be achieved and realised through enlightened citizenry, committed civil service, vibrant civil society and above all, the strong political will on the part of the minister and his deputy minister.
Let all Basotho take part in charting their course. God bless Lesotho and Basotho.
- Kelebone Lekunya is a town and regional planning student and he writes explicitly in his personal capacity.