DPE TO HOLD A NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Local government in Lesotho pre-dates the country’s independence in 1966. Local
government under colonial rule was practiced through a coalition of resident
magistrates and Basotho chiefs who acted as the administrative arm of the central
government.

During the time, chiefs governed through the Laws of Lerotholi which empowered chiefs
on matters such as land allocation, rangelands (pastures) management, collection of tax,
resolution of community disputes and conflicts, and the maintenance of law and order
(keeping of local peace). Later on commoners were introduced into the structures. The
first local government election was held in 1960 and resulted in the establishment of
democratic district councils.

However, the district councils were phased out in 1968 when the government abolished
local governments and replaced them with local administration entities styled village
development committees in 1969. These village development committees were in place
until 1986 when the military government turned them into Village Development
Councils, under a three-tier local governance structure that included; Village
Development Councils; Ward Development Councils; and District Development
Councils. Village Development Councils were directly elected by villagers while Ward
and District Development Councils were formed by representatives or ex-officio.

The Ministry of Local Government was formed under democratic government after
1993. The Local Government Act was passed in 1997 and the Local Government
Elections Act in 1998. However, the first local government election was only held in
2005, followed by the last local government election in 2011.

Lesotho’s experiment with local government has been fraught with inconsistencies
characterized by irregular elections, unexplained metamorphosis and poor interest and
voter turn-out. The Constitution of Lesotho has a provision for the establishment of
local government. This means that local government is essential for consolidating
democratic rule. The holding of the elections and the establishment of local
governments in 2005 and 2011 can be applauded as a positive step towards deepening
democracy. However, these elections were characterizes by voter apathy leading to poor
voter turn-out. Further challenges include the poor representation of women, the
involvement of traditional leadership, lack of full devolution of authority and power
from central government to the local level is another bottleneck in the consolidation of
local government.

Development for Peace Education (DPE) denotes the foregoing state of affairs and
intents to provide a platform to address these challenges. The two-day national dialogue
is expected to serve as impetus for reflections on issues of local government in general,
and elections in particular. The dialogue will be a platform for political parties, civil
society organisations, academia, media and communities to cross-fertilise and come up
with a blue-print for taking local government forward. The national dialogue will be
held at Avani Maseru on Friday, the 22 nd September, 2017.

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