Why vote in local government elections?

THE upcoming local government elections in September provide a platform for Lesotho’s 1.8 million people to decide on issues that directly affect their lives.
Basotho have a golden opportunity to address the challenges often associated with a centralised political system.
The concept of local government is closely linked to the democratisation of the political space where people at the bottom of the ladder decide who represents them.
In simple terms local governance brings the government closer to the people.
Local government is mainly focused on two issues — that of delivery of services and participation of ordinary people in issues of governance.
In Lesotho local government operates within the legal framework where the constitution provides for the establishment of local councils in accordance with an Act of parliament.
Local government is a great platform for Basotho to decide their own fate.
Basotho should therefore stand up and be ready to vote come September 10.
The geographic coverage of councils are more or less the same with those of constituencies for the National Assembly.
Let me illustrate how local government can act as a platform for community action in governance and development issues.
I will use the Machache constituency as an example.
According to a 2006 Lesotho Census of Population and Housing Preliminary Results Report, the number of people in Machache constituency which shares its boundaries with Ratau Community Council was 26 582. 
The MP for the areas is expected to hear every person in this constituency if he is to properly represent them when Bills are debated, budgetary appropriations are made and key decisions are made.
This can be practically impossible and would need strategic ways to ensure full and adequate representation of the people. 
In the context of the Ratau Community Council, there are seven electoral divisions each of which has a councillor. 
This by proportion is about 3 797 people per councillor. Considering this relatively small number of people who are represented, the closeness of the councillor to the people she/he represents and the specific needs of the locality, one is better positioned to participate in local government than in the national parliament. 
This means there is every reason for people to vote in local government elections. 
The Local Government Act provides that ordinary people can observe council meetings.
This means people can propose ideas to their councillor and follow up to see how he presents them during council meetings.
On the basis of what they observe, citizens can further assist or hold their councillor accountable. 
The local council is empowered by the law to establish a fund through which several community development initiatives can be financed.
The law also makes it an obligation that communities receive audited statements at least after every six months.
The council may borrow money without the consent of the minister (of local government) if the amount to be borrowed is not more than the income of the council. 
In the case that the amount requested would be larger than the income, the council has to seek the minister’s consent.
This therefore means that those who have been disillusioned by the performance of previous councils and have chosen not to vote should have a re-think on their position.
These individuals should also realise that choosing not to vote may mean leaving one’s destiny in the hands of those they may even differ with politically. 
Voting is the only way through which one can keep or kick out an incompetent councillor.
But after everything has been said whether local government delivers or not depends on the attitude of Basotho.
If you vote, you determine what your council would look like. If you abstain, you mandate another person to determine on your behalf what the council that serves you should be like.
The best way to make local government work is to elect people who are capable of bringing change, people who can hear the cries of the afflicted.
So there is every reason for Basotho to go out in full force on September 10 to elect their councilors.
It is within our interest.

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