…pledge to work for non-violent, free and fair polls
POLITICAL parties have signed an electoral code of conduct aimed at ensuring free and fair elections on 7 October 2022.
All major parties signed the pledge which enjoins them to refrain from violence and intimidation and to condemn such behaviour among their supporters.
The main governing All Basotho Convention (ABC) was represented by its leader, Nkaku Kabi and its Democratic Congress (DC) coalition partner was represented by its leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mathibeli Mokhothu. Law and Justice Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane signed on behalf his Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) while business mogul Sam Matekane signed on behalf of his fledgling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP). Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane signed on behalf of his Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
Former cabinet minister, Nqosa Mahao, inked on behalf of his Basotho Action Party (BAP) while the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP were represented by their deputy leaders, Ntoi Rapapa and Bothata Lephema, respectively. The AD is led by former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki while the BNP is led by Communications, Science and Technology Minister Machesetsa Mofomobe.
The leaders were in a jovial and relaxed mood and could be seen sharing light moments with each other.
The code calls on political parties to refrain from vote-buying and any other behaviour to unduly sway voters to their side. In their political activities and elections preparations, political parties should also refrain from any behaviour and practices that promote discrimination against anyone based on race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender or religion.
The code also seek to tackle the age-old problem of abuse of state resources by barring candidates and office bearers from political parties that are currently in government from using their government positions and government vehicles for campaign purposes.
“The Commission (IEC) shall take responsibility to ensure that candidates and political party office bearers do not: abuse their positions for the purpose of their election campaigns : use government vehicles during elections period except for ministers and other officials entitled to the use of such government vehicles,” the code states.
The parties are expressly prohibited from abusing any of the security agencies for their political ends.
They should refrain from “involving the Lesotho Defence Force, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, National Security Service and the Lesotho Correctional Service in their political activities”.
They should also refrain from “exerting political influence on the Lesotho Defence Force, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, National Security Service and the Lesotho Correctional Service”.
There are sanctions for political parties who breach the code.
“If any political party registered with IEC contravenes the code of conduct, such party can be penalized with the following sanctions: a formal warning, a prescribed fine and barring the political party from using media time made available by the Commission to the political party for electoral purpose for a certain period,” the code states.
While most parties signed, some like the Mothetjoa Metsing-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Teboho Mojapela-led Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) refused to sign.
In a subsequent interview, LCD spokesperson Apesi Ratšele said his party had decided against signing because their leader was “not around and he is being persecuted by those who don’t want him to lead our election campaign”.
Mr Metsing is in self-imposed exile, having fled the country in December 2021 to avoid standing trial for treason and murder. He is being tried against Mr Mochoboroane, army officers Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa for illegally trying to topple then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in 2014.
A warrant for Mr Metsing’s arrest has since been issued by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane. He has however, petitioned the High Court to cancel the warrant and grant him bail over the charges.
However, his party insists that he is being victimised by his political rivals.
“Our leader is being side-lined and discriminated against,” Mr Ratšele said.
Despite not signing the electoral code of conduct, he said his party would nevertheless abide by its tenets.
“Whether we signed or not, we will respect the code of conduct like all laws that govern this country. We are a disciplined party that has absolute respect for the law, unlike these other parties which harbour murderers who kill people day in and out,” Mr Ratšele said without elaborating.
SR leader Mojapela said he did not sign as he still had some issues to iron out with the IEC. Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL) leader, Limpho Tau, said he did not sign because his party would not be contesting the elections. It has been rumoured that Mr Tau disbanded his party and joined the RFP. He however, did not comment on these claims.
Leader of the obscure Shawl and Light party, ’Masechaba Ntšihlele, said she could not sign the pledge as it was a secular document which did not acknowledge the supremacy of God.
“When I read the electoral conduct, it is obvious that God has been sidelined despite that Basotho have called for godliness in their politics during the consultations with the National Reforms Authority (NRA). So, I won’t be signing it because this (Shawl and Light) is God’s party and not mine,” Ms Ntšihlele said.
Addressing the politicians, IEC chairperson Mphasa Mokhochane said now that His Majesty, King Letsie III had proclaimed 7 October as the election day, the country was now in the “election period”.
“This is a period wherein campaigning shall be governed by the electoral code of conduct,” Mr Mokhochane said.
“It is meant to help politicians, voters and the country to be orderly. It is also meant to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and no one is belittled through utterances at campaign rallies. We know that posters and billboards will be displayed at different places and sometimes they get to be vandalised. This behaviour should stop,” Mr Mokhochane said.
He also pleaded with politicians to stop taking guns and other weapons to their rallies as this causes unnecessary tension amongst the electorate.
“Let’s stop taking guns and weapons at rallies. In the past, we have seen people brandishing big guns and covering their faces causing panic. This is against the electoral code and it has to stop forthwith,” Mr Mokhochane added.
On his part, IEC Commissioner Tšoeu Petlane said the politicians should lead by example to ensure a free and credible elections outcome.
The code can be accessed online on the following link: http://www.iec.org.ls/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Code-of-Conduct.pdf.