. . . former govt tells SADC the IEC secretly registered voters, South Africans
THE seven parties in the former coalition government have told Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairperson, King Mswati III, that the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections were “rigged” by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which they say “secretly” registered people up to polling day.
The parties claim “busloads” of South Africans were ferried into Lesotho to illegally vote among other alleged irregularities and demand a forensic audit of the polls. They also express “deep concern and disbelief” for South Africa’s declaration it would not tolerate a military coup in Lesotho.
However, the newly-installed Thomas Thabane-led government has scoffed at the allegations saying they were an attempt to bring about political instability “in the vain hope that our tenure is as short as theirs”.
The explosive claims are contained in a letter the parties sent to the Swaziland monarch last Tuesday ahead of the inauguration of Dr Thabane on Friday.
The outgoing governing coalition consists of former premier Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC), the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.
The parties only served just two years of their five-year term after Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho cobbled up the 63 seats they garnered in the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections to form government.
The seven party former governing alliance could only muster a combined 47 seats, which were 14 short of the 61-seat threshold to form government.
However, after the elections, the parties claimed in a press conference held on 9 June 2017 that while they accepted the outcome of the elections they had “damning and tangible evidence” of voting irregularities although they did not provide any proof.
In keeping with their stance, the letter which is titled “The position of the outgoing coalition parties on the outcome of the 3rd of June 2017 general elections in Lesotho and other related matters” states that they held “very serious reservations and concerns” about the elections.
The missive is copied to Christian Council of Lesotho chairperson and Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, SADC facilitator to Lesotho and South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa, SA International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, European Union Ambassador to Lesotho Michael Doyle among others.
Part of the letter reads: “It is our considered view that the elections were free, peaceful and without any major problems. However, we are concerned about reports and clear evidence showing very serious anomalies. We must also indicate that many of these anomalies were reported to the authorities of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), all in vain:
“The IEC continued to secretly register voters many days after the deadline that it had set for voters’ registration. In fact, even on Election Day some voters were inserted by hand into the voters’ roll and then allowed to vote.”
The parties say “one political party” distributed a large variety of gift packages to voters.
“This is against both the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Electoral Act.”
“Busloads of voters were ferried across the border from the Republic of South Africa. Many of them were South Africans that had been registered illegally so that they could vote for a particular party in Lesotho.
“Many voters were transferred illegally from their constituencies and moved to certain targeted constituencies in order to enable a certain party to win in those specific constituencies.”
The former government also alleges lower quality ink was used in some constituencies instead of indelible ink.
“This inevitably led to wide spread multiple voting, more so as the IEC had discarded use of ultra-violet light to check against multiple voting.
“We don’t intend to present an exhaustive list of these anomalies. Suffice it to say, in our view there is sufficient evidence to conclude that these elections were rigged.”
They call on SADC to lead a forensic audit “which will establish the extent of these irregularities and thereby make a determination as to whether the results of this election are a true reflection of the will of the people of Lesotho”.
“We also call upon the Independent Electoral Commission to cooperate fully with this forensic audit exercise.”
They urge SADC to push for a government of national unity as well as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“In an endeavour to implement the recommendations of the Phumaphi Commission, the outgoing coalition presented an Amnesty Bill before Parliament. The opposition was strongly opposed to this bill, with the exception of the Alliance of Democrats (AD). The new Coalition comprising the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Alliance of Democrats (AD), the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) have indicated their inclination towards a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“In principle we support this approach. However, we request SADC to make every effort to ensure that this Commission does not degenerate into a witch-hunt that seeks to humiliate and victimise certain individuals or groups. It should rather be established by an Act of Parliament, negotiated in good faith by all parties, and should cover all events that threatened peace, national stability, rule of law, good governance and democratic rule in Lesotho from as far back as 1970.”
The seven parties also lash out at Ms Nkoana-Mashabane’s assertion last week that the neighbouring country in particular and the SADC in general would not tolerate any attempt to overthrow a democratically-elected government.
“This came as a great surprise to us. Nothing is further from the truth. Our parties are founded on the absolute sanctity of democracy and the rule of law.
“We can never ever consider a coup d’état as a solution to any problem in this country. Such irresponsible public utterances by a government minister of a neighbouring state are unfortunate to say the least.”
DC spokesperson Serialong Qoo yesterday told the Sunday Express they were sticking by the contents of the letter.
However, he said they had expected SADC to act on their demands before Dr Thabane’s inauguration on Friday.
“We are still waiting for SADC to act with regards to our letter,” Mr Qoo said.
“If they don’t act, we will have to consider another move to take, but that will be determined by all the leaders in the coalition.”
But Mr Qoo did not state the period they would give SADC to respond to their grievances.
Instead, he attacked the CCL for not releasing a statement condemning the booing of Anglican Church of Lesotho (ACL) Bishop Mallane Taaso during the inauguration ceremony.
He also took aim at Dr Thabane for not reprimanding ABC supporters for booing Bishop Taaso.
However, ABC spokesperson Tefo Mapesela said the outgoing government should provide “tangible proof of the so-called rigging”, failing which they should “quietly and peacefully concede defeat”.
He said the now opposition parties wanted to cause political instability so that the new government may not last “like their own short-lived rule”.
“We consider the elections to have been free and fair because the IEC, SADC and the international community all declared them as such, so it is surprising to hear them talking like that,” Mr Mapesela said.
“They should just concede defeat because they cannot prove the allegations of vote-rigging. They are just trying to stir up unrest with this sort of behaviour. They should take a leaf from our book because we allowed them to rule up until they imploded.”
Strenuous efforts to contact various IEC officials were fruitless last night as some did not answer their phones while another refused to talk after working hours.
However, the electoral body had this past week said it was yet to receive an official complaint and “valid proof” from the outgoing government on allegations of voting irregularities in the polls.