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IEC must prepare to

With a parliamentary election due sometime later this year it is essential that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) prepares adequately to hold a credible poll whose outcome is not disputed.

At the risk of being called alarmist we sense a palpable mood of restlessness across the political divide.

There appears to be a build-up of pent-up emotions that could explode into political strife if not managed properly.

With our well documented history of post-election strife these fears are not misplaced.

It is important that all stakeholders work together to defuse the current tension and ensure we don’t reverse the democratic gains scored over the past few years.

This is important because we have unfortunately built a reputation as a nation with an almost pathological obsession to self-destruct.

The political strife of 1998 should serve as a reminder of the depths some of us are willing to sink to further our political goals.

As Basotho we might be having genuine grievances as we head towards the poll.

There is anger over the state of the economy.

Hundreds of thousands of young, educated Basotho are without jobs.

The government has done a not-so-good job in creating jobs for the thousands of unemployed Basotho. Promises to assist the youth to set up their own enterprises have remained hollow.

Lesotho’s roads are in a wretched state.

The infrastructure is appalling.

Basotho are still expected to go through the indignity of using pit latrines in the 21st century.

Despite exporting water to our giant neighbor, some Basotho still go without access to clean water.

Our agriculture is in limbo.

The education system is in the intensive care unit. It is crying for a complete overhaul to make it relevant for the 21st century.

There are allegations, some of them unsubstantiated, of a widespread system of patronage that sees only those well connected getting government jobs.

Jobs are said to be reserved for ruling party cronies.

These are some of the issues that have made Basotho angry.

But instead of finding solutions to these problems the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy appears torn by bitter infighting. The leadership is in paralysis as factions wrestle for power.

It is these problems that have contributed to the current frustrations. Basotho see the forthcoming election as their only avenue to punish those who have mismanaged the affairs of the state over the past five years.

They want to vent their frustrations at the ballot box.

It is therefore critical that the IEC manages this anger carefully. It must find a way of handling the pent-up emotions.

The best way would be through running a squeaky clean election this year. The IEC must not give the opposition excuses to behave indecently by running a sham election.

We do not want the chaos that we saw in October during the local government elections. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

The onus therefore lies with the IEC to run a clean, transparent election whose outcome is not contested.

We would also wish to advise those who win the election to be magnanimous in victory while urging those vanquished to accept defeat.

It would be sad if we plunge this country into yet another bout of post-election strife. We must break the cycle of post-election violence that we have come to expect after every poll in Lesotho.

It is not too late for the IEC to begin an aggressive voter education campaign at grassroots level to educate Basotho that we cannot resolve our differences through violence.

The time to begin that voter education is now.

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