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Edition #5 10 May 1998
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1. IECís last minutes elections fiasco - Abandoned registration forms discovered on riverbed -
The discovery of registration forms and duplicates in a bush near the Kolonyama bridge has opened a pandoraís box into whether the coming general elections in Lesotho will be free and fair.The question at the top of most peoplesí minds is that of security of elections materials in the custody of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The explanation offered by the chief commissioner, Mr Sekara Mafisa, has been dismissed as begging the issue by some politicians.Leader of the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Vincent Malebo, has complained that even though political party leaders were informed of the hijack and theft of an electoral vehicle in the Kolonyama constituency earlier on, they were never informed what the vehicle had been carrying.
The party leaders therefore argue that for Mr Mafisa to claim that the forms discovered in the Phuthiatsana river are from the stolen vehicle amounts, at best, to an excuse and does not really explain the story behind the discovery.
Since no plausible explanation has been forthcoming from the IEC or any other authority as to how the forms ended up in the river, a full scale investigation into the matter should be a top priority of the IEC, but should be undertaken by an independent firm of investigators with no interest in Lesothoís elections.
The IEC should also convince the electorate along with political parties that from now, such incidents will not occur.This obviously means that there will have to be tighter security around elections materials, either on transit from any point on the globe to another or wherever they may be placed.Such security would have to be agreed to by the stakeholders in order to avoid the usual hurling of insults and arbitrary apportionment of blame.
The IEC must put out a reconciliation of the registration materials.It must be clear how many forms and IDs were issued countrywide and into whose custody were they released.What did they do with them?How many were used and how many were spoiled.How many were on the vehicle that was hijacked?Are the people whose names appear on the discovered documents registered as voters and do their names appear on the votersí list?If not, are arrangements in place to re-register them by May 23?
This then brings about the second question at the top of the lists of queries to be addressed: WHODUNIT?
This is a very serious question in the light of accusations levelled by leaders of opposition political parties at the ruling party.All major opposition parties blame the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the fact that the party is as silent as a grave about the matter talks volumes.The LCD must respond.
There is enormous political mileage the LCD can get out of a foiled election.That may be an extended period of stay in power without a mandate so the ruling partyís bona fides regarding a free and fair election are, to say the least, questionable.
It is a fact of history that in 1970 when there was an impasse regarding the elections outcome, Chief Leabua Jonathan declared the elections null and void, arrested the main opposition leaders and declared a state of emergency.Perhaps the LCD might be giving such a tactic serious thought.
Without a clear response from the ruling party as to its involvement or lack thereof, especially in the face of the body of evidence supposed to link it to the incident, then this whole issue will remain open to speculation until a more authoritative, authentic and plausible explanation is forwarded and accepted by all the stakeholders.
It has been said that the man found sitting next to the forms in the river is a known member of the LCD who came up with an uninspired explanation that he was fishing.How could he be fishing in a dry patch of the river bed without fishing equipment?And what happened to the driverís licence and the passport that were seen on top of the forms?This LCD fisherman must come up with some answers and pretty fast.
It has also been alleged that the driver of the hijacked vehicle is not only a card-holding member of the LCD but a card-toting one which may suggest an inside job - that the vehicle was never hijacked but was willingly handed over but later made to look like a robbery.
This incident follows the suspension of the director of elections, Khothatso Ralitsie, from the IEC.This suggests that a thorough investigation of who are involved in the work of the commission and how are they performing their functions should be done.The IEC must remain squeaky clean and any chaff or impurities identified within its composition must be thrown out before more damage is caused.Caution must however be exercised lest we throw out the baby with the bath water.
Opposition political parties should also clear their names.Just because chief Lekhooana Jonathan was the one who reported the find does not exonerate the Basotho National Party (BNP) from clearing its name and indicating that it does not harbour some sinister hidden agenda.
The same goes for the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and all other opposition political parties.Shouting at the top of your lungs how the LCD is full of bloodsuckers ready to rig the elections at the drop of a hat does not mean these parties are automatically clean of this dastardly deed. They must show us that they are clean.All hidden agendas must be placed on the table for the electorate to see.
This election is not for the benefit of political parties so they can say they won.It is for the benefit of the BASOTHO nation and this is the ideal political parties should not lose sight of.
The 1993 general elections still hold a bitter taste for some people in this country.It is the election which ushered in one party rule and after which the complaints of some people were brushed aside like insignificant pests even by the courts of law.Such must not be the nature of these or any other future elections in this country.
2. More women for elections ... So what?
Basotho women foresee a situation whereby all the laws and traditional attitudes which discriminate against them are struck off if 50 women, out of 80 constituencies, standing for elections could win in the coming elections.
There are for the first time in the history of Lesotho politics, 50 women candidates out of 452 candidates contesting for the 80 seats national assembly. This phenomenon has been received with mixed feelings however.
Mrs ëMamosebi Pholo, a lawyer and chairman of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) hailed the high participation of women as a break through which shows success in the struggle of women against sexual oriented discrimination.
She says the more women participate in the law making and decision making bodies, the more their situation will be bettered. ìIt didnít help us a piece to cry and cry asking men to do things for us. We have to take up responsibility over our situation,î she added.
Mrs ëMalineo Motsíepe, the president of Women in Business Association and Information and Programme Officer for UNICEF-Lesotho, said the husbands who allowed their wives to participate in politics worth national applause.
ìThey have already set a good example which has to be followed by others. This is the kind of support a man should offer to his woman. Many of the laws in this country consider women as minors despite their bigger responsibility in the development activities, building of families and their highest number in population,î she argued.
Mr Michael Ramohai, a businessman who runs a fleet of public busses and claim to be paying schools fees for tens of destitute children said while in support of many women being contestants in the coming elections, he does not see them achieving their goal and foresee them failing dismally because most of them are standing with a minority party of Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) which is not likely to win even a seat in parliament.
He argues that if many women were standing for the bigger parties like Basotho National Party (BNP), Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) they would be standing a better chance of booking their seats in parliament.
While majority support the idea of changing the laws they are still nervous when it comes to the change of tradition. Most of those who are against this idea are traditional chiefs, both male and female.
Chief Mopeli Mohale of Mabote has a feeling that going into parliament of women may be dangerous to the tradition of Basotho as those women in parliament may go beyond boundaries and try to change the tradition.
ìIt is traditional that an elder daughter cannot succeed her father in chieftainship, and if a chief has five children and the last born is a son, it is that last born who will succeed his father not daughters. This must not change because it was done by our ancestors!î he argues.
Chieftains ëManapo Majara, who is a regent for her son who is still young and at school after the death of his father, says she is also against women trying to change the laws which are likely to change Basothoís tradition. ìFor example, it will be blasphemous for the parliament to pass the law intended to allow women becoming heads of their families or becoming chiefs,î he retorted.
Chieftains Majara says she understands there are other areas which need the law to be enacted in favour of women. She gives an example that as a chief, she is on daily basis dealing with cases whereby women are not allowed to withdraw family monies from the bank without the husbandís approval.
1. Youth reject government-sponsored Youth Policy
Youth are rejecting the government -sponsored Youth Policy on the grounds that it does not give any solution to their problems.
More than 1 000 youth from different youth organisations including from political parties who converged at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Agriculture and Youth Affairs rejected the youth policy saying its a control measure imposed upon the youth by the government. Only the ruling party youth league agreed with the policy.
ìAs youth we have the following problems: high school fees, escalating unemployment rate and lack of recreational facilities,î says Pheello Selinyane, a member of the Student Council Representative of the National University of Lesotho.
Selinyane criticises the policy for not giving any solution to these problems and not pointing the way forward.
Qamako Mahao, representative of the Lesotho Youth Federation who is also a member of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) youth league says youth would appreciate a policy which gives a clear solution to education.
He says: ìEducation must be given priority. It must be free at least at primary level. On unemployment, the Lesotho National Development Corporation ( Lesothoís foreign investment recruiting agency) must encourage mushrooming of indigenous firms whose aim will be to create jobs for youth rather than concentrating of foreign investors whose aims are profit only. Youth need recreation and in order to have it they must be in sports and culture rather than agriculture because one cannot separate youth from sports.î
The government sponsored policy has also recommended the formation of Lesotho Council of Youth based on the political parties youth. Mahao reject the formation of this body for not being participatory. He says instead, the council should formed through all the existing youth organisations in the country such as developmental, cultural, traditional and religious groups.
Asked to comment on the policy which has been drafted and tabled by Lesothoís agricultural expert, Dr Rakoro Phororo, a lecturer in political science at the National University of Lesotho, Nthakeng Selinyane, (related to Pheello Selinyane) says the youth were correct to reject the policy.
ìAny policy for the youth must be aimed at allowing them to participate as contributors and beneficiaries in the development process. ...and this policy doesnít show that,î he observes.
2. Highland Scheme sign memorandum of understanding with NGOs
The Lesotho Council of Non-governmental organisations (LCN) and the Lesotho Highland Development Authority (LHDA), long time rivals in the implementation of the Highland Water Scheme intended to sell water to South Africa, have decided to tie the knot.
Mr Ben Van Tonder, the coordinator of the project activities on behalf of LCN, said the signing of the memorandum follows a long discussion between LCN and LHDA on the ways of monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the project and its adverse economic, political and social effects to the communities around the largest man-made dam in Southern Africa.
In most cases, LHDA has been complaining and protesting about negative and opposition reporting of the NGOs about the project while the NGOs were accusing LHDA of implementing some of the project activities at the expense of the communities. The NGOs were highly concerned about the environmental impact such as losing of farming lands and grazing lands, lack of enough compensation, social changes such as high rate of prostitution.
The memorandum provide the ground for both organisations to work in cooperation towards the implementation of the project and LHDA has pledged to assist the NGOs monitoring the project with some funds.
LHDA representative, Mrs ëMawinnie Kanetsi said most NGOs did not have the firsthand information about the project hence why most of their reports were hearsay and very negative. The funding, she said, would make sure the monitoring NGOs reach all sites of the project to monitor the situation.
The agreement says LHDA will give more information to the NGOs while the NGOs, apart from the monetary assistance, will now have more access to LHDA facilities. There will be frequent consultations on every issue regarding the project before any party lay accusations.
3. Heavy rainfall brings wettest period in history
The month of March was the wettest period in the history of Lesotho due to heavy rains experienced in February, which continued into March. The Disaster Management Authority (DMA) and Lesotho Meteorological Services said this in a joint statement.
Continuous and widespread rainfall was experienced at the beginning and end of the March resulting in above normal rainfall throughout the country. The western part of the country had the highest rainfall with the capital Maseru and Mosheshoe I International Airport recording 255.7 mm and 238.6 mm respectively.
These rainfall figures, says DMA, were 192 percent and 102 percent above normal rainfall. Rainfall of very high intensity occurred at times. Moshoeshoe I and Maseru recorded the highest 24 hour rainfall, on March 9, of 60.0 mm and 48.1 mm respectively.
Most rivers were in flood and there were reports of loss of lives, confirmed by the police, as a result of heavy flooding in certain places. Hail storms were also experienced during this period and the hail recorded on March 1 in the western part of Maseru ranged in diameter from 2.5 to 4.0 cm, raging havoc with cereal crops.
The good art of the rainfall, says the meteorology service, is that there is an adequate soil moisture favouring planting of winter crops. ìThe soil moisture and relatively warm temperature combination tends to favour rapid germination and generally good crop stands.î
The hydro meteorology services also says the cumulative rainfall for the last three months has improved surface and underground water reserves. It is anticipated that no problems of water availability from springs, dams and rivers will be experienced for the next few months. Loss of water through evaporation is normally low in April, May and June in Lesotho.
The country is however prone to drought.
4. Youth demand more powers over MPs
Youth, weary of members of parliament dodging or abandoning their constituencies and speaking without thought during parliamentary debates while still maintaining the right to represent the electorate for five years, are proposing amendment to the National Constitution.
More than 1000 youth who attended a voter education workshop in Maseru last week recommended that the constitution be amended to give voters more powers over MPs to avert the problem.
ìThe constitution must provide voters with a right to recall an MP who no longer enjoys majority support in his constituency to be replaced,î said chairman of the Lesotho Youth Federation, Mr Sofonea Shale.
Shale said this would ensure democracy in its true sense where people have control over their representatives, and this move could be a counter measure to apathy and disillusionment among the Basotho as a result of MPs who neglect their constituencies or speak out of their heads without their constituency mandates while debating important issues in parliament.
Youth said MPs should be given timetables from their constituencies by which they should abide. For example, Shale said, a candidate must know as to how many times per month he should report to his constituency, failing which he must lose his status.
In a written resolution which has been submitted to the IEC and distributed to the contesting political parties, the youth said for an MP to spend five years even when he has lost confidence of his voters is not democracy but a mockery.
5. Cell phone company set to overtake cable telephone
The privately owned Vital Communication Link (VCL), a three-year-old company in Lesotho, has installed base transmitters stations covering 30 km radii in the townships of Lesotho to enable cellular phone communication in the areas outside the capital Maseru.
VCL Chief Executive Officer, Andy Moqhali, says the expansion, apart from being aimed at cellularising the 30 355 sq km country, is aimed at providing wider and easy communication within the 2 million population during the May 23 general elections.
Moqhali told journalists here on April 30 that the network will start functioning by May 14 - nine days before election day.
The cellular phones market is booming in Lesotho after the government-owned Lesotho Telecommunication Corporation was rocked by series of strikes in the past five years that brought it to its knees removing all public and business confidence in the company.
It is still difficult for Lesotho telecommunication to cover the whole country despite its being subsidised by the government.
If things go to plan for VCL by May 14, the company is likely to explore some areas in the rural areas which were never explored before and thus gaining more and more loyalty among the telephone users.
At least 15% of the 350 000 Maseru dwellers have now opted for cellular phones according to thestatistics by the Bureau of Statistics.
6. Media reject IEC conditions for covering elections
Journalists and media persons in Lesotho have rejected guidelines imposed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) upon journalists during the polling day as restricting press freedom and free flow of information.
In the ten-point conditions handed over to the media houses the IEC says even though it recognises the important role that the national and international media play in reporting on the electoral process, the body must also consider the privacy of the voter and the secrecy of the ballot on election day.
These guidelines for media representatives, states the IEC memorandum, will help to ensure this privacy and secrecy during the electoral process:
Media representatives will not be permitted inside polling stations on election day unless they have applied to the IEC and received prior approval in writing. The application must be in writing from the media organisation concerned, and state clearly which polling stations will be visited. If approved, the IEC will issue the required authority to enter the polling station specified.
Media representatives will not be permitted into the polling station during the counting process.
Media representatives who have permission to visit any polling station will not be permitted to film or photograph a voter in the polling compartment where he/she marks the ballot.
Media representatives will not be permitted inside the returning office after the close of the polls on election day or during the tally of the votes if it continues until the next day.
Media representatives may be in the vicinity of the polling station, but are asked to keep in mind that voters are not to be inconvenienced in any way.
Media representatives must be impartial in their interviews with voters and must not ask provocative questions.
Media representatives must respect the right of the voter not to disclose how he or she is going to vote or how he or she has voted.
The chairman of the Media Institute of Lesotho (MILES/MISA-Lesotho), Mr Moshe Tsíehlo has condemned the conditions and says the IEC must remove them if they have nothing to hide. The IEC authorities have not yet responded to the appeal by the media.
7. British election observers arrive for Lesothoís election
A team of four foreign observers from the United Kingdom arrived in Maseru on May 3 as part of the joint international observer group to monitor the election process due to be held on May 23.
The team, which is said to have considerable political campaigning and organisation experience, has been put together by the Electoral Reform Societyís International Services division and has been financed by the British High Commission to Lesotho.
These observers are part of a team of eight British observers to arrive on May 21 and they will make a joint report. They will be in Lesotho until May 28.
Lesotho was a colony of Britain until October 4, 1966 when the kingdom god its independence on the basis of British constitution which was carbon-copied.
8. More women stand for elections
For the first time in the history of Lesotho politics, 50 women are going to contest for seats in the National Assembly.
Women ave decided to leave their aprons in the kitchen and fight to seat in the highest countryís affairs regulating body, where, most Basotho women claim, laws discriminating against women can only be reformed.
Only five women stood to contest for elections in the 1993 elections. They have now increased by 45. Three out of five women who stood in 1993 managed to make it to parliament.
Four principal political parties, who appear to be using women as their winning cards as they are placing them while the country is at the peak of women struggle for equality, are also regarding a number of women each party has placed as the beginning of being ahead in the election raise.
Over the phone-in programme of the state-owned Radio Lesotho last week, the main political parties were arguing how modern they were is by placing more women candidates than others.
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) is the highest with 16 women candidates. Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) comes the second with six women candidates with the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) coming the fourth with five while Basotho National Party (BNP) has only two. The rest of the women are belong to the far smaller parties and most are independent.
9. Amnesty International warn police to respect human rights
The Commissioner of Lesotho Police, Major General Bolutu Makoaba, is at the moment being inundated with letters from Amnesty International and all over the world accusing him of violating human rights.
Letters the commissioner has received so far are asking him and his personnel to desist from acts of assault, ill-treatment, torture and humiliation of the factory workers who demand their rights.
The letters, which have also been copied to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Pakalitha Mosisili, are in particular about the arrest and detention of factory workers without trial. They claim that garment workers and shop stewards who recently went on strike at Basotho Jeans Factory had been assaulted, tortured and humiliated while in police custody.
Amnesty International claim that Retselisitsoe Nonyana of Basotho Jeans was arrested on March 5 and released without charge on March 9. While in police custody, says Amnesty, Nonyana was denied food and when he complained of hunger police hit him with batons on the stomach saying that will stop him feeling hungry. The police also slapped and tied him to a tree.
The arrest and torture of Nonyana followed a strike at Basotho Jeans in late February where police shot dead a woman on the spot while more than 40 sustained serious bullets injuries.
In another incident, Amnesty says six women working for Crayon Factory were on March 17 arrested and released without charge. They were tortured while in police custody. Women police officers allegedly grabbed at the detaineesí breasts and stuck small needles into them and into their buttocks.
Amnesty also accuses the Lesotho police of having arrested members of the LesothoClothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU) without charges and denying them a right to see their lawyers.
10. US Embassy grants two million for voter education
The United States Embassy to Lesotho has granted M2 250 000 million (US$450 000) to fund voter education programmes in Lesotho for the coming May 23 general elections.
The American Ambassador to Lesotho, Mr Bismarck Myrick, said the money was to be allocated to six non-governmental organisations that are assisting the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) with non-partisan and civic education projects.
ìWe are happy to see this cooperation between the IEC and non-governmental organisations,î said Myrick.
11. Workers go for politics independently
Thousands of workers gathered at Pitso Ground to celebrate May Day on May 3 decided go for politics as the only way which may bring a success in the fight for their rights.
The secretary general of Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU), Mr Billy Macaefa, said workers have tried in the past to align themselves with different political parties with the understanding that those parties would make worker-inclined policies but they have failed.
ìIsnít it better that we form our own political party and we put our own candidates so that we can have parliament of workers?î asked Macaefa rhetorically amidst ululations.
Workers who unanimously agreed that there is no way their grievances will ever be addressed unless they go into politics.Then appointed from amongst themselves a woman from the textile industry to stand in the coming elections as an independent candidate for workers.
Mrs ëMatanki Mokhantíso is a bullet victim of Basotho Jeans factory and she was leading the strike which was dispersed by police who shot one woman dead in February.
Mr Nqosa Mahao, a lecturer at the national university of Lesotho and a member of the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) urged all workers to vote for Mrs Mokhantsío.
Mrs Mokhantsío is going to stand at Thetsane Constituency, the location of textile industry in the western suburb of Maseru.
ìWe are no longer going to align ourselves with any of the principal political parties which have had a chance to rule this country in the past. We have seen them. They have no hearts for workers but for investors, especially Basotho National Party,î said the secretary general of Congress for Lesotho Trade Unions (COLETU), Mr Justice Tsíukulu.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date:
Sun, 10 May 1998 19:47:52 +0200 Subject: LESOTHO NEWS
ONLINE #5 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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