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Army to remain in barracks on election day


Keiso Mohloboli

SOUTHERN African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator, Cyril Ramaphosa, yesterday said the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) had pledged to keep its members in the barracks on polling day to allay any fears they might disrupt the much-anticipated vote  scheduled for 28 February 2015.

The South African Deputy President, who arrived in Lesotho on Friday and left yesterday, engaged Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing, and Gender Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane in a series of closed-door meetings with the feuding coalition government leaders.

Mr Ramaphosa also met King Letsie III, religious leaders, non-governmental organisation representatives and principal chiefs and was then issued a preliminary report on the country’s state of preparedness for the elections by the SADC assessment team.

“From a logistical point of view, security issues concerning the elections are currently being addressed and will soon be resolved,” Mr Ramaphosa said, adding all the pending security concerns would be discussed during a SADC Troika Heads of State and Government meeting to be held in Pretoria, South Africa on Friday this week.

“I met with LDF leaders today during which they committed to do anything to support the electoral process and we agreed that all the soldiers would stay in the barracks on the day of the elections and only come out when they are asked to provide assistance.”

According to Mr Ramaphosa, the LDF’s duties during the elections would be to transport ballot papers in the remote and mountainous constituencies using their helicopters.

“The LDF is the only security agency that has aviation facilities and in transporting those ballot papers, the police, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and members of observer missions would also be there,” he said.

Mr Ramaphosa further said after meeting with all the relevant stakeholders, he was convinced the elections would be peaceful because political party leaders had intimated that their campaigns were going on well.

“Political party leaders said they had faced no problems since the campaigns started,” he added.

Mr Ramaphosa also said the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) had promised to continue holding prayer sessions for peace and stability ahead of the snap polls.

Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Mr Metsing and Chief ‘Maseribane, formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 election had failed to produce an outright majority winner, but the alliance has since collapsed due to differences over the premier’s alleged dictatorial tendencies.

The trio last week met South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria at Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane’s request, following a deterioration of relations between the premier and BNP leader on one side and Mr Ramaphosa on the other, whom they accused of being sympathetic to Mr Metsing.

Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka told the Sunday Express Mr Ramaphosa had “finally given the impression”, in yesterday’s meetings, that he was interested in resolving the security concerns which Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane had raised.

“The SADC Troika Heads of State and Government meeting in Pretoria on 20 February 2015 will, hopefully, find an answer to the pending security concerns. The Lesotho delegation will comprise Dr Thabane, Mr Metsing, Chief ‘Maseribane, Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa, Police and Defence Principal Secretaries Refiloe Matekane and Thato Mohasoa respectively and other government officials,” Mr Mphaka said.

“The government of Lesotho wants to make sure the environment is conducive and secure for elections on February 28 2015.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing said the LCD was ready for the elections and promised to accept the results “even if we don’t become the outright winners”.

“I can’t confirm whether other political parties would accept the election results but the LCD that I am leading will definitely accept even if we lost,” Mr Metsing said.

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