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No clarity on when new municipal system will become operational

[Lesotho] Basotho Hat - in Maseru, Lesotho. IRIN
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Although the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has won the country's first ever municipal poll, there is still no clarity on when the new councils will become operational. "The more than 1,000 newly elected councillors will first have to undergo training for a month," said Moliehe Matabane, principal secretary of the local government department. Matabane told IRIN the councillors would initially be given tasks they would be "able to handle", but did not elaborate on the functions of the 129 new councils that will be replacing the present Village Development Councils, comprising traditional leaders and government officials. "Their functions are contained in the Local Government Act," she pointed out. Matabane dismissed concerns raised by opposition parties and civil society groups that the new councils would be powerless and without means of enforcing their authority. Opposition parties, like the Lesotho People's Congress, have argued that although existing legislation specified education, health, waste management, water and sanitation, among others, as local council functions, no regulations to enforce the laws had been put in place. "We did foresee this - the government has not really planned beyond the elections," commented Tsebo Matsasa, democracy and human rights coordinator for the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LECONGO), an umbrella body of civil society organisations. He said there was a "lot of confusion around the new local authorities; people do not know who to go to with new issues - in some cases they are going back to the old chiefs [traditional leaders]. If the new local authorities do become operational - people do not know where they will be operating from, as no premises have been allocated to them yet." Matsasa said LECONGO planned to hold a "post-mortem" conference on the local government elections in the second week of June, which "we hope will be able to address some of the concerns". The election, with a voter turnout of about 30 percent, has also had its share of hiccups: the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) confirmed on Tuesday that the LCD had won, but was unable to provide a breakdown of results. IEC spokesman Rethabile Pholo said, "There are so many councillors; there is a lot of paperwork involved - we do not have the resources, the manpower, to provide a breakdown and it will not be available." However, he confirmed that in the final tally, the LCD was followed by independent candidates, the Basotho National Party and the Lesotho People's Congress.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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