LATEST findings by think-tank and research institution Afrobarometer have revealed that most Basotho distrust members of parliament and local government officials who they feel are driven by self-interest rather than the interests of the populace in the execution of their duties.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in over 30 countries in Africa.
Employing social scientists from at least 30 African countries, it conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples that yield country-level results with a margin of sampling error of +/-2% (for a sample of 2,400) or +/-3% (for a sample of 1,200) at a 95% confidence level.
It recently conducted interviews with approximately 54 000 citizens in 36 countries including Basotho and released the damning findings that across the continent, citizens had little if any faith in their government representatives who they also perceived to be corrupt.
“Despite two decades of (sometimes competitive) multiparty elections in many African countries, we observe poor links between citizens and elected leaders marked by declines, rather than gains, on most indicators, starting with public trust,” Afrobarometer reported in its September 2016 survey titled Job performance of MPs, local councillors: Are representatives serving voters or themselves?
“Across 18 countries tracked since 2005/2006, trust in Parliament has decreased by 5 percentage points. Trust decreased sharply in Lesotho (minus 17 percentage points) in the period,” the report states.
A major factor cited for the low levels of public trust was the perception that there were high levels of official corruption, with 20 percent of Basotho stating that they believed that “most or all” parliamentarians were corrupt.
“Countries vary widely in their perceptions of corruption among their elected representatives and more than half of Liberians (68%), Nigerians (61%) and Gabonese (57%) say that most/all of their parliamentarians are corrupt, while fewer than one in five citizens in Cape Verde, Burundi, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tunisia, Mauritius, and Lesotho make the same assertion.”
In addition to high perceptions of corruption among elected representatives, most Basotho and other Africans (59%) said they believed that officials usually get off scot-free when they broke the law. They said by contrast ordinary citizens who also engaged in corruption were not so fortunate.
In Lesotho, 48 percent stated that they believed officials go unpunished while 27 percent believed that ordinary people also go unpunished.
Basotho respondents were also critical of their elected representatives who they accused of failing to listen to their constituents. 55 percent of the respondents said leaders “never listen at all” while 24 percent said they “sometimes listen”.
The respondents including those from Lesotho (80%) overwhelmingly concluded that the poor performance of their elected representatives was due to the fact that they were “more concerned with advancing their own political ambitions” than with “serving the people.”