Lesotho News Online (6) - 6/2/98

Lesotho News Online (6) - 6/2/98


Edition #6 2 June 1998

Subscribe to Lesotho News Online
A bi-monthly update of news from the Kingdom of Lesotho!




News stories:



1. Politics is untamed horse, says Dr Phororo

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The 1998 general elections have revealed the unreliability of wishes when it comes to Basotho perceptions regarding politics, said Dr Rakoro Phororo to Lesotho News Online on May 24, a day after the election results. Dr Rakoro Phororo has written a number of books on Lesotho's development, most especially on agriculture.

He based his argument on the opinion poll and the opinions of university experts and the local media who showed the Basotho National Party (BNP) in the lead. As Dr Phororo put it, the wishes and speculations of the learned political analysts and leaders, and those of laymen (like writers) have been thrown overboard.

"It boils down to one thing, that politics is like an untamed horse that violates logic and the obvious,o/oo said Dr Phororo when asked why elections result did not come out as popularly expected.

He continued: "We all thought, and wished, that this round of elections would bring in a closely contested fight among political parties, resulting in a parliament that has a respectable opposition. This was not to be. Basotho have shown that it is not yet time for it. Their option was the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).o/oo

The LCD was formed in July 1997 by octogenarian Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle as a break away from the then ruling Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) which won all the 65 seats in parliament in 1993. Now the seats have been increased to 80 and LCD has won 78 while one went to BNP. Elections at one constituency are pending due to the sudden death of one of the candidates. BCP came up with almost nothing as it got even lower numbers than BNP in all the constituencies.

Dr Phororo says not withstanding allegations that are being made regarding possible unfair play in the election process, it is unlikely the whole nation can, in the quiet of a secret ballot booth, be taken for a ride, by fixing the whole process on a nationwide scale. He says this because the three main opposition parties, led by BNP, are protesting that elections have been rigged. They haven't produced evidence yet but they say its highly unlikely that human beings can behave in such a uniform manner in the rural and urban areas where the average votes for LCD candidates in every constituency is 5 000.

"Common sense and maturity command a cool and dispassionate examination of the evidence. This is necessary if we genuinely believe the peoples' voice is power because what we think and wish it should be, and ought to be, is secondary to what the nation has decided. Doing or acting otherwise suggests disrespect for the nation; and how can the electorate trust leaders who disrespect their decisions?, he asks.

He says politics may be horses to ride on but the nation cannot be horses, "rather, politicians are beggars who should survive on the goodwill of the nation. If the nation has decided that LCD is the best medium through which their aspirations and needs can be satisfied, so let it be. It is only a temporary setback for other parties, and not the end of Lesotho or the world.o/oo

Dr Phororo warns that politicians come and go, but the society is a continuum that will always be sustained by peace and political stability. He says if there is any lesson to be learnt from these elections, it is simple but forceful that Basotho yearn for and cherish peace.

According to Dr Phororo, the relentless efforts by the BNP leader, Chief Rets'elisitsoe Sekhonyana, to project a new party image has had little impact on the voters and it is this failure which may have made them to switch their vote from BCP to LCD, as it was increasingly becoming obvious that the BCP they knew, and not fundamentally different from LCD, was having a pact with blemished BNP.

"Whether this perception was right or wrong is not the issue. The important issue is the unbelievably dismal performance of BCP; that is, if the declared conclusion of the international observers about fairness of the elections is accepted as unbiased, neutral and pragmatic,o/oo he says.

He also notes the what he calls the apparent indifference of the youth in the elections. He says besides being told about 1970s events, youth have no experience of what happened unlike their elders who felt that peace was at stake. In 1970, the BNP which was ruling by then lost elections to BCP but nullified them and declared state of emergency and suspended the constitution for 15 years.

Dr Phororo also notes that none of the political parties appear to have struck the right chord with respect to the aspirations of the youth. He says Lesotho society, consisting of young people, should be a concern for every politician when the youth show little interest in voting, for two reasons: first, indifference in voting does not suggest that they are not interested in politics, it is a question of identifying causes; second, the youth can be readily fuelled by leaders to engage in clandestine and irresponsible pursuits engineered to satisfy the shady agendas of leaders, thus destabilising peace.

The challenge facing LCD, observes Dr Phororo, is tremendous. It must honour the overriding mandate entrusted on them by the electorate and the party's motto of PEACE. In a political environment, he continues, peace cannot be achieved in a vacuum; other political parties are also stakeholders. LCD must examine the constitution and see how its counterparts can be brought in the democratic mainstream.

"Without peace, there can neither be any genuine socio-economic development nor sustainable democracy. The aggrieved parties need not be convinced that the election process was fair and without any tempering. A mutual understanding must be established for the sake of Basotho and Lesotho,o/oo Warns Dr Phororo.


1. Amazing landslide victory for ruling party

The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) under the leadership of the ailing Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle (76), has slipped to startling victory after winning 78 seats out of 80 leaving mixed reactions of sweet and bitter among the spectators, observers and players.

Elections for one constituency have been suspended due to a sudden death two weeks before the polling day of one of the candidates.

Amazingly very few people celebrated the results on the outskirts of Maseru while angry faces were abundant in the streets of Maseru as bitterness prevailed among the losers who were extremely unhappy with the results claiming they were rigged.

As the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was in the middle of announcing election results and it was undoubtedly clear that the ruling (LCD) was in the lead without challenge in 52 constituencies with a high margin, three opposition parties cried foul and mounted a huge spontaneous protest march of about 5 000 people in the city.

The Basotho National Party (BNP), Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) petitioned the IEC chairman, Sekara Mafisa, for refusing to provide political parties with voters registration list before the elections; of employing workers of the IEC on political grounds (as members of LCD); that a computer firm working on voters lists and voting paper was appointed by the IEC without following proper tender procedures and that the 1998 elections are similar in figures with those of 1993.

The parties also complain that the local firm which was compiling the voters lists in the computers was operating from the Prime Minister's office where all the computers were connected to one another.

Attempt by the three parties to influence King Letsie III to ignore 1998 election results have failed as King Letsie inaugurated a new prime minister on Friday May 29. The new prime minister is the deputy of Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, Pakalitha Mosisili, who has not yet announced his new cabinet.

On the apparent similarity of figures between 1993 and 1998, the three parties reason that the number of eligible voters had increased since the enfranchisement of 18 years olds for the first time. They have asked the chairman of IEC, Mafisa, to resign with immediate effect since they are no longer prepared to cooperate with the IEC under his chairmanship.

Responding to the accusations, Mafisa said since the announcement of provisional results not even a single complaint has been received by the IEC from all parties agents from the polling stations.

"...after all, all the parties' agents observed the voting and the counting as well as agreed and signed for the results that the returning officers gave to IEC for announcement,o/oo said Mafisa.

2. Mokhehle hands over to new prime minister

Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, who became prime minister of Lesotho in 1993 after 20 years of political limbo, has handed over the reigns of power to his successor, Pakalitha Mosisili.

Mokhehle handed over at the swearing in ceremony held at the Royal Palace on Friday May 29, 1998 after Mosisili was elected unanimously by 78 new LCD members of parliament at their first meeting at the national assembly the previous day.

Mosisili is the deputy prime minister and minister of home affairs. He was appointed deputy prime minister by Mokhehle in 1994 after his (Mokhehle's) deputy, Selometsi Baholo was assassinated by the army during the faction fighting.

Both Mosisili and Mokhehle and others came to power under the ticket of BCP which Mokhehle founded and led since 1952. When they came to power, Mosisili did not feature in the BCP hierarchy. Mokhehle's deputy in the party was Molapo Qhobela, who is now leading the BCP. Some party followers complained that Qhobela was being sidelined by not being made the deputy prime minister as a deputy leader in the party - and the power struggle erupted until Mokhehle bowed out in 1997 to form LCD.

3. Thousands protest election results

Instead of the city of Maseru experiencing hooting, ululation and cheering for election victory on Monday May 25, two days after polling, thousands of BNP, BCP and MFP supporters took to the streets protesting the election results.

"Away with cooked election results, away!o/oo chanted the demonstrators, a preponderance of youth and school children who were repeatedly swearing that they would tear Sekara Mafisa, the IEC chairman, into pieces at slight appearance.

The demonstration, which nearly turned into chaos and anarchy, was eventually brought under control by a heavy contingent of police armed with batons and rifles.

The police kept a close eagle's-eye at the protesters who were threatening shopkeepers and ordering them to close down the following day as a protest against the election results.

Since Mafisa did not appear to receive the petition, at the advice of the police who believed the angry mob would 'tear him to pieces,' the protesters dispersed after two hours of standing and singing in front of the IEC offices.

They went to the offices of BNP where they were addressed by the leader of BCP, Molapo Qhobela who asked them to keep order and to disperse in peace to their homes as their leadership was working out some legal plans to challenge the results.

4. NGOs accept election results with reservations

The Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN), which took a lead in the voter education and took part in the election monitoring as observers, to the amazement of the international observers, abstained from using the common jargon of "free and fairo/oo about the election results. Instead the statement released says LCN considers the "election results as reflective of the electorate on the polling day.o/oo

While there was an intention between all the election observers to release a joint statement on the election, a confused situation erupted at a meeting of observers here on Saturday May 24 when LCN and the UN, Commonwealth and OAU observers abstained from declaring unequivocally the election results as "free and fair.o/oo

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and observers insisted that the words must be stressed suspecting that not to use them would imply that the observers are not sure and that this might cause confusion.

As a result the LCN and international observers but SADC said election results were a true reflection of the process and that they took place peacefully according to the internationally acceptable standards.

SADC observers therefore declared their own separate statement declaring elections free and fair.

In its statement, LCN say of the five areas they observed, "it needs to be recorded that during the campaign period, the LCD government took decisions which could/had the effects of influencing voters.o/oo

The statement cited the sudden 10% salary increase for civil servants three weeks before polling day, M82 million (US$16 million) subsidy to farmers distributed through the Disaster management Authority (DMA) and the excessive use of government properties such as vehicles and the only broadcasting stations to gain the upper hand in campaigning. The other concern raised by the NGOs is lack of capacity of the IEC in terms of equipment and manpower to manage elections.

LCN also say the secrecy of the ballot was not ensured. They did not expound on this point.

5. People endure cold to cast their votes

Seventy three year old Josephina Chitja of Botha-Bothe left her home before 5am to start an almost three hour walk to the nearest polling station.

Most people were already at the polling stations from as early as 4am despite the chilly winter cold. At some polling stations some people spent the night around outdoor wood fires so as to be the first to cast votes.

At her age Chitja, says she has voted since 1965 elections which ushered the country to independence on October 4, 1996. "I have been voting and voting but I have never seen any change. Things are still the same. Sometimes I wonder why I should be continuing to vote,o/oo she asked.

Chitja says she only bothered to wake up so early because the chief has ordered that all of his subjects must go and vote during the polling day.

At the same station two teenagers who were voting for the first time were very exited. But their decision to vote is not based on any political party election manifesto or any personal long term understanding about the meaning of elections.

"I just want to feel how people feel like when they have voted. People will also see that I am now grown up... I can vote!o/oo said Clement Siiloe.

6. Low turn out by migrant workers

Migrant Basotho workers, most of whom are mine workers in the gold mines of the Republic of South Africa, made a poor turn out for the first time in these year's general elections.

There are more than 1 00 000 mine workers in South Africa. Women dominated the queues during the polling day. Many of them told Lesotho News Online that their husbands or their fathers did not come home to vote.

7. Germany continues to fund Lesotho

The First Secretary for Development Cooperation of the German Embassy in Pretoria, Mr Franz Marre, said German will continue to assist Lesotho with funds for development projects.

According to the press release from the German Embassy, a grant agreement has been signed by the chairman of IEC, Sekara Mafisa for M320 000 (US$64 000) for elections. This money was used by the IEC to purchase 15 thousand T-shirts for election official assistants and for security matters.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kelebone Maope, has signed agreements regarding the continuation of two major German development projects, both under implementation by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Social Forestry and Conservation Project (SFP) and the Mafeteng Development Project (MDP).

For the final phase of the MDP ending in 1999, technical assistance to the value of about M10.5 million (US$2 million) has been provided to support the following areas: advisory support to extension services, advisory support to the small business sector, support towards decentralisation and local government reform and support towards a town and district plan for the Mafeteng district.

About M15 million (US$3 million) has been allocated to the next three year phase of the SFP. They will be primarily utilised for dissemination of information about social forestry and improvement of provision with seedlings through the support of the private and public nurseries and advisory support to the relevant bodies in social forestry news.

8. The myth surrounding high literacy claims

Academics dispute Lesotho's high rate of literacy as a myth that is misleading the country and the international community.

The myth surrounding the literacy rate is the belief that Lesotho has one of the highest number of functionally literate people.

According to a recent survey by the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC), only 62 percent of Basotho are simply literate while 42 percent , as opposed to 76 percent, are functionally literate.

The survey says the literate rate is not as high as it is presumed to be in the country because "there are no documents to support that it has been the highest in Africa,o/oo said the LDTC Education Evaluator, OEMalineo Sakoane.

She added: "Similarly the 1976 survey indicated that more than half of the Basotho were simply literate. This, combined with the 1985 statistics, refutes the popular belief that Lesotho's literacy rate is one of the highest in Africa.o/oo

Nevertheless, the 1985 survey showed a slight increase in the literacy rate to that of 1976. The establishment of LDTC in 1974 created opportunities of learning to illiterate people who could then learn how to read and write.

According to many academics interviewed, what fuelled the myth of high literacy rate is the belief that when a person can read and write their names, they are literate.

The LDTC Language Educator, Motloheloa Khaketla, says: "The problem is realised when many people are asked if they can read and write. They often answer that they can only read and write their names and cannot even fill a bank slip or follow a doctor's prescription.o/oo

He says people who are literate are those who can read and write not only their names even though not necessarily being able to use their knowledge to make their lives easier. He says those who are functionally literate are those who actually benefit from using their reading and writing skills to benefit in their daily lives.


From: (Africa_news Network) Reply-To: Subject: LESOTHO NEWS ONLINE #6

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific