THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was enjoying a slight lead in local government elections conducted last week.
By last night, the RFP had bagged 295 councils with the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) taking 285.
At the time of going to print last night, there were still 72 electoral divisions to be counted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Lesotho has 367 councils or electoral divisions in total.
The results of the elections will likely see parties in the ruling coalition backing each other with those in the opposition doing the same to their bloc.
Opposition parties like the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Basotho Action Party (BAP) have also got a sizable chunk of councils, which could provide some sort of a cushion to the DC.
In the same vein, the RFP backers like the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) have also scooped quite a number of councils.
Other parties like the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) have bagged very few seats to make any impact in support of the DC, which they back in parliament.
Speaking a day after the elections, DC leader Mathibeli Mokhotho, said his party had performed exceptionally well during the election.
“We have won due to stability and engagement,” he said, adding that political education and a united strong leadership at all levels of the party structures had seen the party perform fairly well.
“I also thank the entire DC membership and the Basotho nation at large for entrusting us with the local governance and government,” he says.
“We will shoulder this responsibility well,” he says.
For him, the results show a growing trust of Basotho in his party and governance.
However, even in districts where the DC garnered quite many councils and won the districts the RFP still has councils it controls.
For example, in Quthing the DC won the Urban Council, Tšitsong, and Qomo-Qomong, while in Tele the two parties have equal councillors and the remaining two councils are for the RFP.
In Qacha’s Nek, the DC’s stronghold, it has won all four councils.
Dr Tlohang Letsie, a political analyst, said the local government elections appear almost meaningless to many people.
Even the people who had voted in October elections did not vote in last Friday’s elections, he argued.
“Even the people who were passionate to vote in the past have not voted now,” he says.
Dr Letsie said this was caused by the fact that the local government elections are not of significance as compared to the general elections.
Dr Letsie says the RFP did exceptionally well in urban areas in the general election last year where people do not have anything to do with councillors.
“Most of them do not even know their councillors because they do not deal with councillors,” he says.
“Many do not even know the names of their councillors.”
Such people are not motivated in any way to go and vote during local government polls.
He said in this election in particular, the failure of the RFP to deliver on its election manifesto could have created apathy.
“The RFP was voted by the people who had a lot of expectations,” Dr Letsie said.
“It got a sympathy vote because people were seeing it as an alternative to established parties,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the expectations were too high.
In politics, Dr Letsie said, once a party seems to fail to deliver on what it has promised, and fails to reach the expectations, people usually become despondent.
“The RFP has not (implemented) much of the expected changes and some people have become despondent,” he said.
He said the councillors are not viewed as significant to the lives of many people hence they do not consider voting for them a great issue.
Voting for chief mourners
Muckraker was surprised to hear that last Friday had been declared a holiday.
“Why?” she asked. “We are having local government elections,” they said.
That answer left Muckraker laughing for the entire weekend.
In between those laughs Muckraker had the time to check what a councillor does.
It turns out that their role has been so emasculated that they are now just chief mourners at funerals. They attend village funerals to make speeches.
Sometimes they attend meetings with senior government officials who generally ignore what they say. There are days when they measure some pieces of land for allocation. When not attending funerals, being used as rubber stamps by government officials and counting metres, they are dealing with domestic disputes.
Matters like who fought who at a local bar last week, who is refusing to return the wheelbarrow they borrowed from a neighbour or whose donkey strayed into whose maize field.
They are more counsellors than councillors.
It’s not that councillors don’t matter but that the government has insisted on keeping all the power, authority and responsibility to itself.
Councillors have no say in how much is allocated to their areas or how resources are used.
The marginalisation of the local government is deliberate. Those running the national government think they know what is best for the people.
There is however a more sinister motive for demoting local government into organisers of pitsos.
It’s about resources. Not to distribute but to eat.
Senior politicians and government officials know that handing over real power to the councillors means they will also have to surrender the feeding trough.
The rule in this country is that you should never steal because the central government hates competition.
Give more power to local councils
AT the time of writing last night, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was leading in results that had been announced for last weekend’s local government elections.
What stands out though was the massive voter apathy that saw Basotho largely shunning the elections.
Under normal circumstances, local government elections should trigger massive local interest as the issues directly affect people at the grassroots level.
Sadly, that has not been the case.
What we have seen is general apathy toward the polls with Basotho ignoring the elections altogether. It would appear that most Basotho have very little appreciation of how the local government system works in practice.
That probably explains why there has been very little enthusiasm towards these elections.
Perhaps the biggest cause of the apathy is that most people don’t really understand the critical role of local governments.
The other reason could be the government’s reluctance to devolve more authority and responsibilities to the local government. The talk of devolution has been there for years but with little tangible results.
Without much gravitas councillors have been reduced to mere talking heads with little or no say in the distribution of resources to the people.
This makes people see local government elections as a ‘by the way’ instead of being the cornerstone of both democracy in general and service delivery.
Local government elections have thus been reduced into an expensive money wasting junket meant to satisfy a constitutional obligation rather than electing local leaders to drive the development of communities.
We would suggest harmonising the elections to cut the cost of voter education. Yet that would not address the apathy.
The solution to the people’s aloofness to the local elections is to give more responsibilities to the local councils. The people have to be convinced that local governments matter. And that can only be achieved by dispersing power, authority and resources to the councils.
That push should come from the government and the opposition.
The current results of the elections appear to show that the RFP was running neck and neck to the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party.
The other smaller parties appear to have made very little impact in the polls.
What we are likely to see in the long run is a clear contest between the RFP and the DC for supremacy. It would appear that despite some trouble in the RFP cockpit over Matekane’s leadership style, the people on the ground still love their leader and the party.
For Matekane, the honeymoon is still not over. He remains the darling of the rural masses who still see him as a “political Messiah” sent to deliver them from economic penury. They still believe in his vision and political programmes.
While the DC appears to have retained its grassroots supporters, there is still so much work for the party if it is to mount a serious challenge to the RFP’s hegemony in the next elections.
It will need to project itself as a credible alternative voice in parliament if it is to make an impact. That will require that it maintains its stability by speaking with one voice.
Until the government empowers local councils to ensure they have real power to improve the lives of the people at the micro-level, the people will continue to see local government elections as a waste of money.
Mehalalitoe face Mighty Warriors
Lesotho’s national women’s team, Mehalalitoe, kick off their 2023 COSAFA Women’s Cup campaign against Zimbabwe at the Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow in Atteridgeville, South Africa.
Lesotho arrived in Tshwane on Tuesday night, had their first training session yesterday afternoon and will finish their pre-match preparations with a final session today.
Lesotho’s mission is headed by the experienced Pule Khojane and he will have to use all his knowledge to unlock Lesotho’s opening opponents, Zimbabwe.
The ‘Mighty Warriors’ are a mystery because Zimbabwe have been out of international football for almost two years, thanks to a FIFA suspension and they missed last year’s COSAFA Women’s Cup as a result.
Khojane admitted it has been difficult to plan for an unknown opponent but he is preparing for a tough encounter.
“It’s difficult to plan for Zimbabwe because we don’t know them, they haven’t been playing (international matches); we tried to get videos but we could only find old ones so you can’t plan with that, we need current videos,” Khojane said.
“We are taking them as an unknown opponent but a tough one, we are planning for a tough opponent; we will see on the field,” he added.
Mehalalitoe left Maseru without their three star players based in South Africa – captain Boitumelo Rabale who plays for Mamelodi Sundowns, and the duo of Mosili Motšoeneng and Litšeoane Maloro who are with Royal AM.
The trio has been called up for the tournament but are yet to join the squad and it is unclear if their clubs will make them available because South Africa’s top-flight – the Hollywoodbets Super League – continues this weekend and throughout the two-week COSAFA Women’s Cup.
Khojane, however, said Mehalalitoe have not received any rejections from Sundowns or Royal AM and the expectation is Rabale, Motšoeneng and Maloro will join the team tomorrow before the clash with Zimbabwe.
“We were expecting them last week but their league is still playing; we are still expecting them,” Khojane said.
“We communicate to ask for players, our team manager speaks to clubs’ team managers. For now, there is no denial that they are not coming, so we still expect them,” he said.
One player that will miss the tournament is Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) captain Ntšabeng Pelea who is nursing a knee injury.
Khojane said there are other players in the team carrying minor injuries but they are not expected to be a problem.
This is the second time that Khojane has taken charge of Mehalalitoe and he said women’s football in Lesotho is changing.
While the Mehalalitoe squad is still heavily dominated by LDF players, Khojane said it is encouraging that they have been able to pick players from other clubs such as Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Lijabatho.
“We still have LDF’s dominance as the team that has performed well but I realised women’s football is changing because we can now go to other clubs and get players that can compete with LDF. Normally, the squad was dominated by LDF and Kick4Life but we have (players from) LMPS, Lijabatho which is encouraging,” Khojane said.
Khojane said he hopes the experience gained by Lesotho’s LDF contingent at last month’s CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers in Durban can help Mehalalitoe progress past the group stage of the COSAFA Women’s Cup for the first time.
Lesotho is in Group C of the 12-team tournament alongside Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
Only the top team in each of the three pools as well as the best placed runner-up will qualify for the semi-finals which means there is very little margin for error for Mehalalitoe.
Limakatso Matibi of LMPS is the only new face in the team. ‘Matšukulu Motloheloa and Bohlokoa Mothala have been called up before but this is the first time they travel with the team for the COSAFA Women’s Cup.
“This is the second year I have been here that we go to the COSAFA (Women’s Cup),” Khojane said.
“Last year I wanted to pick young players (of) 21, 22 (years of age and) the purpose was to have a team that can be together for a long time even if it doesn’t qualify, but it should be a team that can be trained for four or five, years,” Khojane said.
“LDF gained a lot of experience from (CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA Qualifiers) and they have raised the level of training; we are still expecting that we will pass the group stages this time around.”
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