Chiefs are an unhappy lot

Chiefs are an unhappy lot

MASERU – VILLAGE chiefs are an unhappy lot.

This is because for years they have been receiving very little from the government to run their offices. Those in extremely poor areas have been forced to use their monthly allowance of M600 to keep their offices open.  Those in towns have resorted to charging for services, something that has put them on a collision course with villagers who believe they are being fleeced.

Chiefs are supposed to provide services for the registration of births and deaths in their villages, write testimonials for those who seek jobs and those who relocate to other villages.

A chief is the highest authority in a village and is responsible for communication with the government. He also works with councillors.

They also keep a register of livestock, land ownership and they also mediate in disputes and refer some cases to courts in writing.

All these services require money.

But, despite that their job is crucial they have received very little from the government.

One such chief is ’Malebohang Lekhobanyane of Mazenod Ha-Lekhobanyane, some 15 kilometres south of Maseru, who says she often runs out of stationery and has to find other means to keep the office running.

“Not by any chance do I demand cash for the use of my stamp,” Lekhobanyane said.

Khauta Lentsoe, who volunteers as the chief’s secretary, said villagers are the ones helping the chief to run the office.

Lentsoe said last year “we agreed with villagers that we will start printing paper on our own because the government does not provide us with stationery’’.

Sometimes Lekhobanyane goes from door-to-door asking the people to help buy stationery for her office.

“In some cases, she (the chief) has to use her pension money (about M200) to print enough pile of forms,” said Lentsoe.

Chief of Qoaling in Maseru City, Makonyane Matsoso, said the government doesn’t give them stationery but they too offer services free of charge.

Matsoso said they have asked people to bring their own paper.

Matsoso said the only cash demanded from villagers is M2 so he can buy paper and toner.

‘‘To make things easier and quicker, we as a family bought two printing machines and it cost us about M7 000 and we do not expect any refund from villagers,” Matsoso said.

“Villagers really show appreciation for our efforts by paying that M2 without any complaints,” he said.

This is experienced by the chiefs countrywide.

The Principal Chief of Likhoele in Mafeteng, Lerotholi Seeiso, said circumstances force chiefs to ask villagers to pay for some services.

Chief Lerotholi said many chiefs under his jurisdiction recently begged him to share his stationery with them.

He said he had no choice but to share.

Sometimes he uses his own money to buy stationery for his chiefs.

The Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs, Pontšo Sekatle, declined to comment on the issues.

Officials at the Director of Chieftainship refused to comment, saying Sekatle is the one who should talk.

The Principal Secretary could not be reached for comment.

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