Will the New Municipal Councillors Fulfill Expectations they have created?

“There is so much wrong with many of our towns that the new councillors must get down promptly to task with commitment and vigour, as they have promised they will do, and see to it that that they defend the interests of all the citizens who come under their jurisdiction equally.

If ever there was a time to do so – if only to ensure their future victory again – then this is surely the moment they have waited for…”

Despite the low voter turnout of about 33%, and the even lower percentage of votes by which the victory of the Alliance Lepep would have been won the municipal elections (since the votes would be divided between it and the other parties), the fact remains that the electoral process has allowed the three partners to obtain all the seats in all the five municipalities. This is an unprecedented achievement, and it has to be acknowledged as such irrespective of partisan opinion.

Let us accept that as a people, we have been riding a wave of change that led up to the general election of 10 December 2014 and its definitive outcome, and that we have given a clear mandate to the powers that be for transforming the country – on the basis of the electoral promises they have made.

Some justified — in a democratic sense – criticisms notwithstanding, a grand clean-up has been initiated, which is going on and looks like it will a while before there is final determination by the judicial system. Fraud and corruption in governance processes implicating the corporate-political nexus, and allegedly illegal massive money transactions (transfers, laundering) are the targets of the large-sweeping official broom that has been called into play.

While this is at the central level of government, it must be underlined that over the years spanning several decades, similar allegations have been made about what goes on in municipalities. And the issues that these allegations concern are only too well-known: allocation of stalls in the market-place, obstruction (especially in Port Louis) and unfair competition by hawkers who do not pay any licence fee, constructions undertaken (e.g. the Forum in Curepipe), contracts awarded for various activities (e.g. scavenging and cleaning, purchases), road repairs, street lighting, and so on.

In the same vein, successive regimes have made allegations and counter-allegations, but at the end of the day the citizens cannot but doubt whether there is a genuine desire to change things, since these ills are evoked at every election, which surely means that the irregularities are still present? And that they need to be eliminated? In other words, that just as at the central level, at the municipal level also there is an imperative and urgent need for an equally grand nettoyage.

Now if the Ministry of Good Governance is coordinating this operation at central level, the question arises as to whether there is an equivalent body to do so at the municipal level, or whether the same Ministry will step in to initiate investigations into all the malpractices that the Alliance Lepep has alluded to during the campaign.

The Prime Minister appealed to the people to give his Alliance an equally strong mandate as in December so that the good work that it has begun could be continued throughout the country. He even declared that if this had not been the case, he would have seriously thought of making an exit. Now that the dice has been firmly cast, he has expressed his satisfaction, and promised that there are better days ahead, a second economic miracle as he calls it.

Given that his track record, post-1983, one can trust him to deliver once again, now that the centre and municipalities are politically aligned. In theory, therefore, there is not going to be any obstacle in the relation between the two, implying among others that the critical element of adequate funding for the improvement and development of the towns will not be a problem.

The question being asked is whether the needed works will be addressed promptly or whether they will have to await a similar nettoyage as the one going on?

Let us hope not, for there is so much wrong with many of our towns that the new councillors must get down promptly to task with commitment and vigour, as they have promised they will do, and see to it that that they defend the interests of all the citizens who come under their jurisdiction equally.

If ever there was a time to do so – if only to ensure their future victory again – then this is surely the moment they have waited for, since they will benefit from the full support of the government at the centre. They have to quickly draw up a list of priorities and plan a calendar of works, get them approved, seek the funding, and oversee execution within defined timelines.

Besides, they should innovate by making all this transparent, in other words inform the people regularly and comprehensively of what all is under way or being planned, and guarantee that good governance practices are being strictly adhered to. What about a weekly update about projects, activities, events to be openly displayed in a suitable location of easy access to the public?

An extension idea of this would be to involve the people in the affairs of their towns by inviting suggestions and proposals, and what about inviting them to post queries as well on display panels made available and accessible to them?

If we want to really change things in a radical way, these are the kinds of ideas that must be sought and applied, and demarcate not only one municipality from another in a positive way, but also show that the new councillors do really mean business and are ready to face the challenges and solve the numerous woes of the citizenry.

They have built high expectations. Will they fulfill them?

*  Published in print edition on 19 June 2015

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