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Metsing makes strides in decentralisation policy

By Bongiwe Zihlangu


MASERU — The local government ministry has launched the formulation of the National Decentralisation Policy for the realisation of effective service delivery.

Speaking at the launch ceremony held at the Lesotho Television studio on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Local Government, Chieftainship Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mothetjoa Metsing said the development of the policy would enable government to overcome challenges “currently posed by its absence”.

“One of the challenges we come across with regard to implementing the Decentralisation Programme is the absence of the National Decentralisation Policy,” Metsing said.

“The policy’s absence hampers government from pointing clearly at achievements made at council level and monitoring progress and implementation. That is why we are on a mission to develop the policy.”

“The policy will also serve the purpose for people to understand the meaning behind the decentralisation concept and how it can speed up service delivery.”

The first local councils in Lesotho were suspended in the 1970s under former Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan’s Basotho National Part (BNP) government after the realisation that they were in support of Jonathan’s greatest nemesis, the late Ntsu Mokhehle’s Basotho Congress Party (BCP).

They were reintroduced in 2005 by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government with the second local government elections held in 2011, which produced 64 community councils, 11 urban councils, one municipality council and 10 district councils.

According to Metsing, he in his capacity as local government minister embarked on a learning excursion to Malaysia and Rwanda in a bid to understand the two countries’ style of local governance, how they had implemented their national decentralisation policies and milestones reached.

“We found Malaysia to be too far advanced for us and decided to settle for our African counterpart Rwanda which seems to have made immense progress despite emerging from a bloody civil war,” Metsing said.

Metsing added that to come up with a clear policy, the government of Lesotho had engaged two consultants, one locally and the other one Charles Bakwatsa, a Ugandan national recommended by the Rwandan government, having formulated the country’s policy.

“We asked the Rwandan government how they had achieved their success and they told us about a consultant they had engaged and we asked for him,” Metsing said.

The initiative, Metsing said, is financed by the EU, GIZ, UNCDF and UNDP under the Deepening Decentralisation Project.

The two consultants along with the ministry’s staff, Metsing said, would hold consultation meetings with relevant stakeholders to engage them in the formulation of the policy to develop “a policy made by Basotho to meet their needs local government level”.

“We will engage all the relevant stakeholders such as the business community, civic society groups, chiefs, councillors and so forth to get a feel of what Basotho need,” Metsing said.

“After the consultations the consultants will relay the nature of decentralisation Basotho need so we can formulate a policy that will meet the needs of all Basotho.”

“What we need is for Basotho to submit their opinions on how to go about it.”

The DPM added that they were looking to conclude the consultations and formulation of the policy by December “or January 2014 at the latest”.

“We succeeded in holding local government elections and now have councillors who very well understand challenges faced by people at the grassroots due the lack of services but can’t do much as their powers are currently limited,” Metsing said.

“The policy will empower these leaders to make decisions and bring developments in their localities.”

Metsing further promised that a year after the implementation of the policy “there will be an evaluation of progress made”.

Asked if the central government was ready to let go and cease power to leaders at local government level, Metsing casually said that it was for people, to in clear terms, say what they wanted and “for us to determine who doesn’t want to give power away”.

“I can assure you that my ministry is more than willing to cease power to the people. Ours is to simply table the policy before cabinet, get its approval so that we can begin with the implementation process,” Metsing said.

A seemingly self-assured Metsing also promised “there will be visible changes”.

“We will do all that is within our power to make this initiative a success by giving all that is required of us. There will be definitely be visible changes,” Metsing said.

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