ALL Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane’s reaction to his party’s crushing defeat in three by-elections last weekend was not unexpected.
We wuz robbed, the opposition leader cried.
“The fact that Saturday’s poll results do not show a shift in voting patterns is testimony to the fact the results were engineered,” Thabane said.
“We have more registered supporters than we’re getting. The numbers have remained stagnant.”
It is fashionable for opposition parties in Africa to reject the results of every election they lose.
Granted, ruling parties in Africa are notorious for outright theft of elections or other machinations that make results questionable.
There is little however to substantiate Thabane’s accusations that last week’s by-elections in Hololo, Mpharane and Sebapala were rigged in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
The LCD, predictably, has dismissed the allegations as a desperate attempt by an opposition party bereft of ideas to smudge the credibility of the elections.
If Thabane is serious about the rigging allegations, we urge him to take it up with the Independent Electoral Commission.
We do not condone any machinations to steal elections, including vote-buying and threats as alleged by the ABC.
For now, we believe it is critical for the ABC to quickly go back to the drawing board.
Its defeat in the by-elections — whether rigged or not — must serve as a big wake-up call for Lesotho’s biggest opposition party.
We are not concerned by the ABC’s loss because we support the opposition party in any way.
But it worries us when the biggest opposition party allows a ruling party that has done little to uplift the lives of people to romp home without breaking a sweat in key elections.
Lesotho is battling the HIV and Aids pandemic with nearly a fourth of the country’s sexually active population carrying the virus.
The textiles industry — Lesotho’s second biggest employer — continues to haemorrhage jobs with 15 000 having been sent home since 2005.
Latest statistics show that about 450 000 vulnerable and poor Basotho — a quarter of the country’s population — are in need of food assistance.
Infrastructure is at best obsolete and at worst non-existent.
People have no roads, clinics, hospitals, electricity and clean drinking water.
The LCD has given little of all these basics that Basotho are yearning for every day.
Yet the ruling party literally strolled to victory in Hololo, Mpharane and Sebapala.
It’s not that the LCD has been doing a great job.
It’s because the ABC and other opposition parties have been sleeping.
The opposition has given the electorate little to choose from.
Instead of addressing the bread and butter issues the ABC and the LCD, sadly, spent most of their campaign time denigrating each other.
Calling each other names excites many during rallies.
But when it comes to the polling booth the electorate does not care about the mudslinging.
It’s the bread and butter issues that matter at the end of the day.
And it matters little too even if the ruling party talks nothing about that during the campaign period.
The people only have a real choice when the opposition puts something on the table.
The opposition ought to elucidate its policies and plans to extricate the people from the clutches of poverty.
The ABC and other opposition parties have to prove that they have the potential to become an alternative government.
Yet that does not come by simply holding well-attended rallies that do not sell attractive ideas to the electorate.
It’s all about strategy, something that seems to be scarce within opposition parties.
Without that the LCD can be rest assured that it will rule this country until donkeys grow horns.
So instead of crying crimson tears, the opposition ought to wake up and re-strategise.
Otherwise the opposition faces an embarrassing defeat in the 2012 general elections.
That won’t be good for our nascent democracy where we need a vibrant opposition to keep the ruling party’s powers in check.
In the meantime, we would like to congratulate the LCD for winning last week’s by-elections.
Our only hope is that the LCD will repay the faith shown in the party by uplifting the standards of living for the people of Hololo, Mpharane and Sebapala as well as the entire country.