…Accuses ABC and BNP of vote-buying and abusing state resources to campaign for next year’s poll
The Democratic Congress (DC) has written a letter of complaint to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) alleging the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) have breached electoral laws by using state resources to campaign for the 28 February 2015 snap election.
The main opposition DC further notes in the letter dated 16 December 2014, that by so doing, the two parties had violated the Electoral Pledge signed by the country’s political leaders parties and other stakeholders on 11 December 2014, committing to a free and fair poll.
The DC now wants the IEC and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitation Team to take action against the ABC and BNP for the “rampant use of state resources and generous donations of food parcels and clothing for political purposes against the Electoral Code of Conduct of 2011 and 2014 Electoral Pledge”.
The DC letter, signed by Secretary General Ralechate ’Mokose and addressed to the IEC Acting Director of Elections ’Mamatlere Pontšo Matete, reads: “Yesterday, Monday 15 December 2014, Prime Minister and ABC leader, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, went on a political mission to the mountain constituency of Hloahloeng No 63.
“He was accompanied by his ‘partner’, Miss Liabiloe Ramoholi, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Litšoane Litšoane, the District Administrator for Mohale’s Hoek, and many public servants from the ministries of Agriculture, Health and Local Government. In addition to the eight vehicles in the prime minister’s convoy, and three in Miss Ramoholi’s convoy, there were many other government vehicles, including those with registration numbers Y1384, Y1624, Y4107 and Y4227.
“At this occasion, the following items were distributed to the electorate: A 5 kilogramme packet of rice, one tin of baked beans, 1 kg pocket of sugar, 12.5 kg pocket of maize meal, and one pocket of candles. In similar fashion, the Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Honourable Thesele ’Maseribane followed much the same practice in Mount Moorosi No 67 constituency where he distributed various items of clothing to the electorate on the same day.
“Our submission is that the above activities constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct of 2011, specifically Article 4 which states as follows: All those bound by this Code in terms of Section 22, throughout the elections period, give effect to the following undertakings and stipulations: (i) To refrain from using a position of power, privilege or influence for political purposes, including; (i) incumbent government power such as state facilities and transport.”
The DC, led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, also contends “the above activities contravene the Electoral Pledge signed in front of the SADC Facilitator (South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa) by leaders of political parties and other stakeholders, especially where it says under 19.5: Abstain from offering material inducements to influence party membership, event attendance, voting decisions or candidacy nominations; 19.6 refrain from using social or institutional power for political purposes.
“Our observation is that this rampant use of state resources and generous donations of food parcels and clothing for political purposes is a general trend on the part of the ABC and BNP. It is being used as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is intended to deliberately disrupt the election process by willfully undertaking activities that will attract protest and indignation, while on the other, it is meant to bring unfair political advantage to these two political parties.
“We request the IEC and SADC Facilitation Team to take prompt and decisive action against these two parties and that the IEC will reply to us in seven days to advise us about the steps that are being taken with regard to this matter.
“We also request the IEC to make the necessary pronouncements such that no other party or stakeholder will enter into programmes that can have the effect of derailing the electoral process in any way. In this specific case, the SADC Facilitation Mission has the advantage that the Prime Minister is under the direct guard of the South African police who know, at all times, where he goes and what he does.”
The letter has also been copied to the Head of SADC Facilitation Mission, Ambassador Fanny Phakola.
Mr ’Mokose on Friday confirmed to the Sunday Express that he wrote the letter following communication with Ms Matete.
“I first phoned the Acting Director (Matete) to report the issue; she is the one who requested that I should put the report in writing, hence the letter. But she understood our concern through our conversation on telephone and promised that the IEC Tribunal team would meet to address the matter.”
Mr ’Mokose, however, indicated the IEC had not yet responded to the letter formally.
“The seven-day ultimatum we gave them has not yet lapsed, so hopefully, we will be hearing from the IEC soon.”
Ms Matete, on the other hand, yesterday told the Sunday Express the DC letter was only received by the IEC Registry Department on Friday.
“That letter was only confirmed to have been received by the Registry staff yesterday, so I am yet to look at it, which I will do on Monday. Ntate ’Mokose called me on Monday to tell me about that letter, so I think I already have some rough idea about the issue. What we will do with that letter is to refer it to our Tribunal team to work on it as soon as possible,” said Ms Matete.
Contacted for comment yesterday, BNP Spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe said: “Look who is talking! It’s the DC whose leader, Pakalitha Mosisili and his government put some money in match-boxes and gave them to the electorates in the run-up to the 26 May 2012 parliamentary elections. This is the very same man who appointed army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and former Government Secretary Motlatsi Ramafole, into these substantive positions during the same election period.
“As the BNP and ABC, we are only doing what we are supposed to do as government of the day. We are giving these gifts to the needy as part of social development programmes. We are not going to sit back and do nothing about orphans and vulnerable people in need of government assistance. The DC is just being hypocritical about this. As government partners, we can’t just let people suffer.”
On the other hand, ABC Spokesperson, Tefo Mapesela, also claimed the DC distributed “match boxes containing money to the electorate before the 2012 election. What we are doing right now is no different to what the DC did in 2012. We cannot just let Basotho suffer while we are in government, considering that this an election period. The Prime Minister, Ntate Thabane, is only doing what he has always done, which is taking care of the people. And when he does this, he doesn’t talk about politics. This is purely done to feed hungry mouths, and not to gain political mileage.”
Lesotho holds national elections two years early after the coalition government comprising the ABC, BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which came to power in June 2012, failed to last the prescribed five-year period due to a bitter power-struggle between Dr Thabane and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also leader of the LCD.