Include councils in Constitution BALA

Councillors in the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) are lobbying to be included in the Constitution of the country during constitutional review.

Recently, the councillors have been complaining that Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was failing to take their welfare issues seriously.

BALA president, Jeffrey Sibisibi has been touring the country consulting with councillors on matters affecting them.  During the BALA executive committee retreat held in Kasane during the week, Sibisibi said with the government having made a commitment to a holistic review of the Constitution of Botswana, as well as decentralizing governance functions, there was need for inputs from nationals to inform the development path and governance structures.

“It is against this background that I wish to implore you collectively and individually to position ourselves for added responsibilities,” Sibisibi said.  “On councillors’ welfare, which of recent has been a nagging issue, there is need to lobby a constitutional entrenchment to eliminate any inherent uncertainties. Since councils are the first port of call to the citizens, it is only proper that we lobby for councils to be an establishment of the Constitution in the envisaged review,” he said. He said the reason why at times councils failed to make money was because most critical motions that had been passed needed approval of central government for them to be implemented.  In addition, the BALA president revealed that government was pushing for a decentralization policy which could work well if councils were recognised by the Constitution.

“Decentralisation might make council autonomous, which will help them to do their budget well. The reason why people have been accusing councils for non-delivery is because they are not given enough money by central government to make priorities for projects they want done first,” he said in an interview. 

Political science lecturer, Keaoleboga Dipogiso is of the view that if councillors’ aspirations were limited to this, then it was unfortunate that councillors aware focusing on a peripheral matter.  What they could be lobbying for was autonomy and independence from government for the sake of self-regulation and control.

Dipogiso said: “If this arrangement is achieved, all other things will fall in place. For example, the welfare issue is normally limited to their personnel emoluments and housing. If they lobbied for financial autonomy, then their issues would be easy to resolve.”

The UB lecturer said currently, they depended on meagre collections and largely on the revenue support grant from government, which was not enough to cover all their aspirations, including competing needs such as developing their areas.

“So when advocating for welfare, they consider themselves only, not the whole institutional arrangement and the prejudice it causes. Let’s say the Act is amended to facilitate their inclusion. Their welfare still remains hinged on an arrangement that gives them no institutional power. That sort of recognition would literally be futile.”

He said councillors should agitate for more institutional power that transcends merely labelling them in the Constitution, but would enable them to control their finances, development plans, human and capital resources.

Another political analyst, Lesole Machacha remarked that councillors were raising a positive move, which would help constituencies in terms of development and creation of employment in villages. “I believe councillors should also lobby their MPs to support them. This move will help government to yield positive results in so many ways. Even other countries like South Africa are doing that. Councils will be able to push developments, which they have long been calling for.  I believe that councillors could also ask for MPs to bring the issue as a motion in Parliament. If they lobby enough, I do not see why people could refuse that amendment. Honestly, that will be relief from Central Government because councils would now be able to make money for themselves. Even issues of internal roads in the villages could be addressed,” Machacha said. 

He further said the reason why villages have high number of unemployment and youth moving to towns was because of failure by councils to create jobs in their jurisdictions.

Machacha also called upon councillors to start their campaigns for the inclusion of councils now in the Constitution so that people at the villages have an idea of what they were advocating for. 

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