National Decentralisation Policy, 2014 a white elephant

National Decentralisation Policy, 2014 a white elephant

LESOTHO is notorious for developing very good strategies and dismally failing to effectively implement them.
Legend has it that whenever Botswana wants to implement anything, they come to Lesotho to “borrow” from her policies and strategic plans because they are always good.
This article was triggered by the tug of war between Minister of Local Government and

Chieftainship, Hon Litšoane Litšoane and the district council for Berea.
According to reports last week Hon Litšoane interfered in the affairs of the Berea District council. It is alleged that he did this by directing the District council to stop working on the roads in Kanana council and instead focus on the road network in Kueneng Council (found in the constituency of Mosalemane).

That directive did not go down well with the district council.
At this point a brief overview of the governance landscape in Lesotho is in order to help the comprehension of the pith and marrow of this article.
Councils in Lesotho were promulgated by the Constitution of Lesotho, 1993, Section 106 which states that, “parliament shall establish such; local authorities as it deems necessary to enable urban and rural communities determine their affairs and develop themselves”.

It is in alignment with the Constitution that Local government in Lesotho was established in 2005 through the election of local authorities.
At that time, the country had 128 community councils, 10 district councils and 1 municipal council. In 2011, 11 urban councils were added and councils were brought down to 64.
The council fall under the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship whose mission is to “promote, deepen and consolidate a sustainable and effective system of local governance for improved service delivery and enhanced quality of life.”

Important or key words in this statement are the words “local governance”. This is because local problems need local solutions if we are serious about overcoming them.
Furthermore, one of the objectives of the Ministry of Local Government is to “support and strengthen councils in the provision of quality services to the nation through a well-defined policy framework and adherence to laws and regulations”.

A question has to be asked if the Minister Litšoane thought about this objective when he was dealing with the Berea District council issue.
We have to recall that in trying to adhere to this objective the Ministry developed the National Decentralisation Policy in 2014. The purpose of the policy is to deepen and sustain grassroots-based democratic governance and promote equitable local development by enhancing citizen participation and strengthening the local government system.
In an ideal environment that policy should already be in use.

But research has shown otherwise. In a research Dr Hoolo ‘Nyane, an academic of incredible repute, points out that “The question of how functions are assigned between central and local governments has always been an area of dispute”.

The concerns raised by Dr ‘Nyane are sentiments I share today looking at what transpired last week. Had the Ministry of Local Government implemented the Decentralisation Policy, we would not be seeing the squabble for power between the Minister and the district councils or any council. The effective implementation of the policy would mean that every stakeholder knows their jurisdiction.

Within the policy-making landscape we talk of sphere sovereignty, a term that simply means people should not skip their boundaries.
It also means that each stakeholder should know and respect their place in the policy implementation phase. In the case of Lesotho it says there should be clear boundaries that separate the roles of the central and local governments.

The effective and meaningful implementation of the Decentralisation policy would go a long way in assisting the Ministry of Local government observing respect for these boundaries.
The decentralisation policy is too important to end up as a white elephant like all documents developed by the government of Lesotho. There is need to get the policy out there and implement it.

Additionally, the implementation of the decentralisation policy will also benefit other ministries. This is because services will be offered at local level where they are accessible to the people, especially those living in hard-to-reach areas.
For instance, the very long lines that we see at the Traffic Department would not be there if the decentralisation policy was being implemented.
This is because people could get licences and plate numbers in their districts and not all come to Maseru for such minor services.

Instead of fighting local government councillors Minister Litšoane should assist them by making sure that the decentralisation policy is implemented. That will not only help local councils but his ministry as well as a lot of load will be taken off their shoulders.

Kelello Rakolobe

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