What voters want

ORDINARILY, elections as part of democratic practice are not about citizens trading in their votes for favours from the winning party.

However, in the current election year in Lesotho the possibility of very close competition between the three assumed leading political parties seems to lend extra weight to the individual vote.

My own list of critical areas in need of special attention is below, in no particular order.

A close reading of Chapter III (Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution shows that most of these are areas to which Lesotho has long committed to fulfilling:

First call for children

There is a long-standing international agreement that services for children should make the first claim on public resources.

This is because what happens to children today has a long-term impact on their future, including who they become and their ability to think with a bearing on future generations.

Citizen participation

Representative democracy implies a limited number of elected people making decisions on behalf of citizens.

However, successful democracies have increased the spaces in which citizens can make direct or indirect contributions to decision-making.

In Lesotho, elections are the only direct way for citizens to influence the type of state they want.

Other areas where government can facilitate more citizen participation, supported by effective access to information laws,include:

Poll management body

The selection of commissioners of the Independent Election Commission is primarily in the hands of political parties.

The appointment can be opened up to citizen participation through a process of public nomination of potential candidates and a transparent selection process of the eventual candidates.

This applies to all other standing public commissions whose candidates are currently mostly nominated by the King or the prime minister with no public participation.

Budget process

The process of allocating public funds to different national priorities remains a government only process.

The first step is to allow Parliament more influence over the budget process, including revising budget decisions.

The next step is to facilitate more interaction, debate, more and better information for citizens, including on outcomes from the allocations made.

The law-making process

Other than for the law review process that has had some limited participation by organised civil society, the process of making laws in Lesotho is influenced very little by citizens, their demands and desires and their aspirations.

Parliament, and the ministries which are mostly responsible for initiating processes, should plan for and expand citizen participation platforms in the process of law-making and for a greater and not lesser number of laws.

Education policy should provide for democratisation of student representative bodies.

This should apply from primary school throughout the school system.

This will allow children and youth to appreciate the practice of democracy and hopefully infect the broader population.

Open up the space unions

The long-drawn and often conflict ridden strikes by South African labour unions have made governments wary of unionisation.

However, labour unions are still the only way that workers can engage with employers and negotiate as equals on their often conflicting interests.

Local government

Improve resourcing, revenue collection potential and delegate more financial and other decision-making powers. Citizen participation mechanisms should be built into local government planning.

Term limits

Currently, the Constitution of Lesotho does not provide limits on how many times a person can be appointed head of government.

It will require a review of the Constitution by the next government to introduce term limits. This is important given the lack of internal democracy within political parties.

Youth unemployment

Youth make up the largest percentage of the population in Lesotho and have the highest rate of unemployment. In addition, the prospects for many for further education and training are limited  because of a myriad of reasons including limited funding and low pass rates.

Registration, standardisation and mainstreaming of higher education products

There are currently a number of private higher education institutions offering training courses, especially in management, to students with the promise of integrating into the university system or potential employment. There is need to put in place an institution to audit all higher learning products for standards and allow for transmission between the institutions and to universities.

Transparent public procurement

Public procurement processes in Lesotho have been beset with suspicion of corruption. There is need for a more transparent, competitive, economical, efficient, fair and accountable public procurement process and system.

Reduce the cost of government business

The costs of government doing business are currently very high. One of the key reasons for this is that service providers often consider in their costing the long-drawn out payment process. The payment process also exposes service providers to corrupt mediators, in the public sector, who demand a share for facilitating the payment process.

Regulation of medicines and medical products

The advent of HIV and Aids and the associated diseases has opened up the space for a number of individuals and businesses from Lesotho and other countries to develop substances that are said to cure most of the diseases associated with HIV and Aids. These claims are made without any scientific proof of the efficacy of these substances. There is need for testing and control of these substances and the public claims of their efficacy made on advertising.


Relebohile Senyane is a Lead Implementation Officer for a SADC Child Network( Imali Ye Mwana) a Project of Idasa which focuses on supporting child rights organisations in SADC .  She holds an MA degree in international training and education.

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