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Lehohla says local elections to go ahead

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — The government has rejected calls by the opposition to postpone local government elections set for October 1 to February next
Leaders of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Basotho National Party (BNP), and the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leaders met the Deputy Prime Minister, Lesao Lehohla, at his Qhobosheaneng office on Monday where they presented the proposal to postpone the local council polls.
Thomas Thabane (ABC), Thesele ‘Maseribane (BNP) and Moekboetse Malebo (MFP) were concerned that if Lesotho goes for the local council elections with a voter’s roll that has 100 000 ghost voters it would create a fertile ground for post-election conflict.
The three leaders proposed that the elections be merged with parliamentary polls which are expected to be held in February or March.
But in a confidential letter circulated exclusively amongst cabinet ministerson Thursday, Lehohla said the government would forge ahead with the local government elections “as scheduled for 1 October”.
Lehohla, who is also leader of the august House and the deputy leader of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), said that it was vital to continue with the local council polls as dictated by the timetable issued by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) “to test our strength as the ruling party”.
In the letter Lehohla said it was in the best interest of the LCD for the elections to continue.
This paper saw a copy of that letter.
However, Lehohla denied any knowledge of such a letter when contacted for a comment on Friday.
A report by elections expert Roberts Johnson title The State of the Voters’ Roll as at July 2011 revealed that Lesotho’s voters’ roll is currently inflated by over 100 000 voters because the IEC has failed to clean the register regularly.
Johnson noted that it was still possible for Lesotho to hold credible local council polls with the same voter’s roll but this left opposition leaders sharply divided.
Some were adamant that the roll would not have an impact on the election results while others described the roll as “a recipe for disaster”.
But Lehohla told the Sunday Express on Friday that “Dead people do not vote in Lesotho.
Our system is such that it is virtually impossible for them to vote”.
He said starting registration from scratch would only result in “more problems and complications”.
He said the IEC had already issued a timetable.
Lehohla added that since people die every day it would be impossible to
expect a perfect voters’ register and “that aspiring for one is as good as chasing a mirage”.
The deputy prime minister was also adamant that there were no compelling reasons to justify yet another postponement of the local government elections.
“Reasons that are being raised are weak in comparison to the law. It’s not like we’re taking sides. We just need to listen to the IEC as the referee,” Lehohla said.
“Our being government does not make us any different from other political parties. We have no control over the administration of elections,” Lehohla said.
He said government was not expecting any post-election conflict but that if there was “we will expect people to take the legal route”.
“They would have to produce before the courts of law the evidence that dead people do vote, which will be a miracle,” Lehohla said.
Sello Maphalla , whose Lesotho Worker’s Party (LWP) is also of the opinion that local government polls should be held as scheduled, said he was not surprised that Lehohla had rejected the proposal to merge the elections.
“I knew the response would be in the negative. People want to go for elections,” Maphalla said.
“I am part of the opposition yes, but I firmly insist that it defies logic why there are others who don’t want to go for elections.”

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