MASERU — Three opposition leaders on Friday declined to sign an agreement to pave way for free and fair elections arguing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had deliberately snubbed the event.
The three, All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane, Marematlou Freedom Party’s Moeketse Malebo and Popular Front for Democracy’s Lekhetho Rakuoane, said they would not sign the agreement in Mosisili’s absence.
The agreement, dubbed Lesotho Roadmap 2012: Plan and Commitment for the 2012 National Assembly Elections, is meant to level the playing field in elections expected in May this year.
The trio told the meeting convened by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that they had made it clear at their December meeting last year that they would not sign the deal if Mosisili failed to attend.
Mosisili instead tasked his deputy Lesao Lehohla to sign on his behalf.
Twelve political parties attended the Friday meeting.
An emotionally charged Malebo accused Mosisili of reneging on agreements signed by Lehohla in the past.
“We want Mosisili to sign this document, not the LCD deputy leader,” Malebo said.
“The LCD leader undermines us. He has forgotten that he’s a political party leader who just happens to be a first amongst equals.”
He added: “I’m looking at you in the eye, to tell you that I don’t know how I can sign a document in his (Mosisili)’s absence when I’ve given him the chance to sign it.”
Lehohla said he was dismayed at Malebo’s suggestion that Mosisili did not take him seriously.
“This is the first time I am hearing that documents signed by me are not accepted by the prime minister. This is new to me,” Lehohla said.
Thabane was equally firm in his refusal to sign.
The ABC leader said Mosisili had a tendency of reneging on agreements signed by Lehohla.
“Once, while we were trying to solve the 2007 post-election impasse, Lehohla and I were tasked to write a letter to Botswana’s Ketumile Masire, in our capacity both as government and opposition,” Thabane said.
“But the letter never reached Masire as it got stuck at the top. I’m raising this issue not to embarrass Ntate Lehohla. It’s a fact. So, I’m not going to sign until Mosisili does.”
Thabane said he would never sign the document unless Mosisili availed himself because his signature would make the agreement more credible.
“This is a good document which also serves as our guidelines for the 2012 elections. Mosisili should meet with us to hear our views on this issue,” Thabane said.
He said Mosisili must make time to meet with the opposition to sign the document “so that he can go on with his business afterwards”.
However, Lehohla later produced a letter from Mosisili’s office which he said gave him “the full mandate to sign on the prime minister’s behalf”.
Lehohla said he was going to sign the deal despite the opposition’s protests.
Six other political parties also signed the agreement.
These are the Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Thesele ‘Maseribane, Lesotho Worker’s Party (LWP)’s Macaefa Billy, National Independent Party (NIP)’s Letuka Nkole, Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP)’s Thabang Nyeoe, Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP)’s Jeremane Ramathebane and Senkatana’s Lehlohonolo Ts’ehlana.
Ramathebane said he signed the Roadmap 2012 because “it’s an all inclusive document”.
“Unlike some of the documents we usually disagree on, this one is spot on and not in the least discriminatory. I appeal to all leaders here to sign the document,” Ramathebane said.
“As for Ntate Mosisili, he must have insecurities preventing him from mingling with the opposition leaders. If only he knew how great it is to be in the presence of the opposition.”
Ts’ehlana said he was signing the election agreement because he was not Mosisili’s political appendage.
“My leadership is not appended to Mosisili. I will not let his absence stop me from signing this agreement. Let those who don’t want to sign it not sign. But I am signing it,” Ts’ehlana said.
Lesotho People’s Congress secretary general, Moipone Piet, said it would be wrong to refuse to sign the deal because Mosisili was absent.
“In my opinion, Ntate Lehohla is no different from Ntate Mosisili. The votes that elected the LCD leader into power are not different from those that gave his deputy the legitimacy to lead,” Piet said.
“If Ntate Mosisili has not honoured any agreements made in the past that he didn’t sign, there’s nothing indicating that he will honour this one if he signs it. He won’t hear that which he doesn’t want to hear.”
Basotho Congress Party (BCP) leader, Thulo Mahlakeng, said although he embraced the document, he could not sign on the day as he had asked to be excused to attend to other business.
Mahlakeng is expected to sign next week. ‘Maseribane also defended the document as a milestone in Lesotho’s political history.
“Mosisili or not, this document remains the same: a roadmap requested by political leaders. If we sign this, it will help level the playing field for all concerned,” ‘Maseribane said.
“We can use it as a weapon to hold LCD officials accountable especially when they abuse state property. It will also compel Ntate Lehohla in his ministerial capacity to take action when things get out of order.”
IEC chairman, Limakatso Mokhothu, told the political leaders that this year’s general election would probably be in the second week of May.
She noted that since new Mobile Registration Units (MRUs) had been bought in they were now ready to register voters.
“Next week we’ll deploy staff to register voters. We’ve also engaged a new company to intensify the cleaning of the voters’ roll,” Mokhothu said.
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