THABA-TSEKA — The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs has been accused of diverting resources to build a road that was not budgeted for in the Thaba-Moea constituency in a desperate bid to win the seat for a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) candidate in a by-election slated for February 2014.
Councillors from the Khutlo-se-Metsi Community Council, who belong to the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) allege that the local government ministry which is headed by LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing in the coalition government, “is desperate to win the constituency hence the impromptu road construction” without the requisite budget.
Sethuntša Peea, the chairman of the Thaba-Tseka District Council told Sunday Express this paper that the LCD was so desperate to win the constituency that it was unashamedly “playing vote-buying games”.
“The LCD is so eager to the by-election that it is now playing vote-buying games,” Peea said.
According to Peea, former Local Government Deputy Minister Selibe Mochoboroane allegedly ordered Thaba-Tseka District Council Secretary (DSC), Palo Nthethi to ensure that the district council built the road as failure to do so would “cost the LCD the Thaba-Moea constituency”.
Mochoboroane, who was this week transferred from the local government ministry and promoted to become a full minister of Communications, Science and Technology has been replaced by Apesi Ratšele, the former Ministry of Education and Training Deputy Minister.
“We are surprised by that behaviour of the deputy minister. He even ordered the DCS to ensure the building of the road which was not budgeted for and is not a priority for the Khutlo-se-Metsi,” Peea said.
“The deputy minister also told Nthethi that failure to build the roads would culminate in the LCD losing the by-election.”
Another Khutlo-se-Metsi councillor, ‘Mamopeli Matete, told this paper that Mochoboroane’s alleged vote-buying tactics were doomed to fail.
“The community of Thaba-Moea does not see the road diversion as a benefit to them,” Matete said.
“If anything, it (the road diversion) hinders local government improvement and the development of our area.”
Matete added that local councils in the district were engaged in the construction of planned roads passing through villages like Mateu to Methalaneng, instead of the unplanned one that links Qhafutsong and Methalaneng.
Matete also claimed that what Mochoboroane was doing bordered on fraud since “he is just buying votes”.
“Even if the outcome is not affected, fraud can still have a damaging effect if it is not punished as it can reduce voters’ confidence in democracy,” Matete said.
“Even the perception of fraud itself can be damaging as it makes people less inclined to accept election results,” Matete said.
The councillors said Nthethi had questioned Mochoboroane about the construction of the road which was neither budgeted for nor included in the Khutlo-se-Metsi Community Council’s schedule of roads to be built.
The councillors alleged that Mochoboroane had even threatened to fire Nthethi for insubordination after he resisted orders to build the road.
This paper could not establish the length of the controversial road that begins at Qhafutsong and ends at Methalaneng in the Thaba-Moea constituency. The councillors claimed that there were no surveys conducted before the construction began.
The Thaba-Moea national assembly seat was won by the DC’s Mokhokoli Seutloali in the May 2012 elections. Seutloali died in April this year after a long illness.
The worried councillors further alleged that the road construction machinery currently being used in the Thaba-Moea constituency road construction had previously been used to build roads in the Tele constituency in Quthing with the hope that the LCD would also win an election there.
The LCD’s Doreen Chaoana-Mapetja contested the victory of the DC’s Ndiwuhleli Ndlomose of the Tele constituency on grounds of alleged misconduct after last year’s general poll.
Ndlomose was disqualified from parliament while the case continued in the High Court of Lesotho which later declared his victory null and void.
However upon appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ndlomose and ordered his immediate reinstatement as an MP.
The Thaba-Moea councillors’ allegation that the machinery used in the unplanned road construction was the same used in the Tele constituency where work abruptly stopped when Ndlomose won the case.
Ndlomose on Sunday confirmed that the machinery that was used in road construction in the Tele constituency had since been moved to Thaba-Moea.
According to Ndlomose, immediately after he won that case in the appeal court “the construction of roads in the Tele constituency came to an abrupt end”.
Thaba-Phechela in the Mafeteng district is another constituency up for grabs having been previously won by the DC.
The constituency became vacant when its MP Molahlehi Malefane died in early October, also after a prolonged illness.