UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
LESOTHO NEWS ONLINE/LESOTHO NEWS ONLINE/LESOTHO NEWS
Edition #7 19 June 1998
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A bi-monthly update of news from the Kingdom of Lesotho!
1. GOVERNMENT REFORMS CONTROVERSIAL REVENUE FUND
1. BIG MAIZE IMPORT BECKONS AT LESOTHO
2. STATE BANKS ON SALE
3. WHY WAS DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS SUSPENDED?
4. DISGRUNTLED MINISTERS TAKE OATH AFTER INTERVENTION
5. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF DR. NTSU MOKHEHLE BEYOND PREMIERSHIP?
6. ëNEGOTIATE OR FACE STRIKE,í UNION WARNS
7. PUNCH! DONíT TICK, BCP ADVISES ITS MEMBERS
8. BCP MEMBERS ASKED TO INVESTIGATE
9. SOUTH AFRICA EATING BIG FROM COMMONWEALTH
10. CONSTITUENCY TAKES IEC TO COURT OVER IRREGULARITIES
1. Government reforms controversial Revenue Fund
After a protracted controversy over the method of allocating monies from the Lesotho Highlands Development Revenue Fund, the government of Lesotho says it is now reformulating the fund to promote transparency and accountability.
The fund was introduced at the behest of the World Bank out of the tariffs collected from the Lesotho Highlands Water Projectís related imports with the aim of utilising the money for community based development activities, especially for the rural and those communities directly affected by the project.
The World Bank is the main bank-roller of the project which is intended to sell water to South Africa as well as improving irrigation and electricity production in Lesotho.
Since the fund started in 1992, the opposition parties, some NGOs and some individuals have been complaining that the ruling party of Lesotho, the Congress for Democracy (LCD), was using the fund for its supporters and as a ticket for touting membership and buying votes.
A two-day workshop on reformulation of the fund was held on June 11 and 12 where decision makers from both governmental and non-governmental organisations were invited to look into the new strategy to be followed to avoid another mal-administration of the fund. All participants agreed that the fund should be renamed the Social Fund, the name introduced by the government to dissociate it with the Development Revenue Fund that has earned itself a bad name.
The introduction statement released by the Ministry of Economic Development and Planning said: ìIn June 1997, the government of Lesotho made a commitment to reformulate the Lesotho Highlands Revenue Fund into a Social Fund, which will be one of the prime instruments to reduce poverty in Lesotho.
ìThe government also took an important decision of involving the community in the process of designing this community-based Fund for development. To promote transparency and accountability in the operations of the Fund, the government agreed that there will be an Operational Manual that clearly lays down the operational policies and procedures of the Fund.î
According to the statement read at the meeting, this Manual will be translated into a local language (Sesotho) so that it will meaningfully assist the communities to access the Fundís resources.
Even though the workshop was intended to be that of an in-depth discussion with the communities involved, no communities were represented. Only government officials and NGO leaders. And some NGO leaders complained.
ìWhere are the communities? Are we doing this in the name of communities so as to get money from donors? Is it fair to use the label community involvement when we know exactly that the communities will not be represented? Have they been invited and how?î questioned Morapeli Tsíeuoa from one of the community-based organisations, Bana ba khoale.
To date, approximately M335 million (US$65 million) has been poured into the fund from the water project related revenues. About half of these revenues, M152 million (US$29 million), has been disbursed to fund over 200 projects.
The government says the fund has so far created employment for about 15 000 persons per month, mainly in the labour-intensive construction of basic infrastructure; that is construction of dams, roads and bridges into the villages.
The number of beneficiaries of the fund from 1992 makes the total of about 1 020 000 people, all of whom were believed to be members of the ruling party.
All the stakeholders at least agree that while the establishment of the special fund was intended to be utilised for improving quality and quantity of services to the population and reducing poverty, ìits initial operations have been plagued by managerial, institutional and financial weaknesses.î
1. Big maize import necessary to avert disaster
Lesotho will have to import 190 000 tonnes of maize if it is to avert nationwide starvation caused by inadequate maize production.
This grave situation is caused by the less than normal rains which fell in the last farming season, due to the el-Nino-induced drought which persisted until March this year.
Although in comparison to the previous year relatively good rains fell in Lesotho as in other Southern African countries, some dry spells were experienced from November to December.
Because of this, Lesotho expects to yield 50 000 metric tonnes leaving a deficit of nearly 190 000 metric tonnes. The deficit of food grain is expected to be imported by major millers in the country.
The Lesotho National Early Warning Unit (LENAWU) estimates that even if the 190 000 metric tonnes were imported into Lesotho, it would still leave a further food deficit of plus or minus 46 600 metric tonnes to square up food requirements for the country.
The unit also predicts that although the situation is critical, there is not likely to be immediate food demand inside 12 months
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Lesotho is one of the four Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries that are likely to be hit by huge maize importation bills. Others are Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia.
The four countries are expected to produce below average maize tonnage. The subregionís crop production total for the 1997/98 ploughing season is put at 17 million tonnes which is 13 percent above the average, but 13 percent below the bumper harvest experienced two years ago.
Countries that are expected to record above average production are: Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the war-ravaged Angola.
Zimbabwe expects a production of 300 000 tonnes while South Africa expects an above average yield of 2.3 million tonnes. Countries that expect above average food yields in the subregion used more irrigation methods to supplement unreliable rainfalls.
At the global level, a total of 908 million tonnes of maize is expected to be produced representing one percent less than the previous yearís yield.
2. State banks on sale
Hundreds of employees of Lesotho National Bank and Agricultural Development Bank, both state banks, were evidently caught in shock on June 5. Rumour and corridor talk on that day was the news that the two banks were to close down immediately.
It was not the news that the banks were about to be closed down forthwith that sent shivers down the spines of employees, but the fact that they were hearing it for the first time having heard nothing from their immediate management.
A government gazette released on the same day, Friday June 5, 1998 signed by the Director of Privatisation Unit, Mothusi Mashologu, has put the two banks on the privatisation card.
The gazette says Agric Bank is in a ìseverely distressed situationî ... and the intention of the government is to undertake all such actions as shall safeguard the interests of depositors in the processing of essential restructuring which may include liquidation and transfer of certain rights and obligations of the bank to Lesotho Bank or other registered financial institutions.
Lesotho Agricultural Development Bank was established in 1976 as a limited liability corporation wholly owned by the Lesotho government. This also applies to Lesotho Bank which was established in 1971.
With regard to Lesotho Bank, the gazette says the intention of the government is to dispose of the majority of its shares by a process of restructuring and formation of strategic alliance prior to public flotation.
3. Why was director of elections suspended?
A concrete answer from the chairman of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Sekara Mafisa, as to why the director of elections was suspended a few days before the polling day must surely answer the question of whether May 23 general elections were rigged or not.
This was said by the of United Party (UP) Makara Sekautu, in an interview with Lesotho On-Line recently.
Mr Sekautu, who have just served a two-year jail term for being involved in a conspiracy in an attempt to topple the former Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle in 1996, said he sincerely believed that elections were 'cooked' in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
ìOn May 20 this year, at our (political parties) meeting with Mr Mafisa, after he informed us that the director of elections, Khothatso Ralitsie, had been suspended because intelligence reports said he was directly involved in party politics, I told him (Mafisa) that it was not enough to just inform us about that,î Mr Sekautu, who is not accepting the election results, explained.
Mr Sekautu said: ìMafisa must tell us the details about the name of the political party and what exactly Ralitsie was doing for that party. I suspect Mafisa is hiding something. Why was Ralitsie suspended?î
Asked if he sincerely believed elections were rigged and if he could produce evidence, Mr Sekautu said there was no evidence which could prove that elections had been doctored except the clear exhibit of the suspension of Mr Ralitsie from the office of IEC at the time when elections were a stone-throw away.
Mr Ralitsie was suspended indefinitely in April this year for what Mr Mafisa explained was an alleged open involvement in the political activities of a certain party. He did not mention the name of the party. Many suspected that he was referring to the LCD as it is alleged Mr Ralitsie belonged to this party.
Mr Mafisa, however, declined to give details regarding the matter to the media and political parties on the grounds that the IEC was still investigating.
Mr Sekautuís party, UP, is in alliance with the Lesotho Labour Party and United Democratic Party. The three small parties formed an alliance towards the dying days of the run up to the polling day in a move political analysts interpreted as a marriage of convenience merely intended to get some free campaign funding from the IEC.
4. Disgruntled ministers take up portfolios after intervention
Disgruntled former ministers who boycotted appointments to low level ministerial positions in the new government, have succumbed after the intervention by the outgoing Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kelebone Maope, and Shakhane Mokhehle, Minister of Natural Resources, refused appointments for Agriculture and Works respectively.
They were being changed by the new Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, whose party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), has been returned to power by a landslide victory on May 23.
As a result of their refusal to take portfolios, the two ministries were left vacant until Dr Ntsu Mokhehle, the outgoing prime minister and life president of the LCD, intervened to ask them to take up the portfolios.
The unexpected event sent rumours around the town of Maseru to the effect that the duo was not satisfied with the appointments of Mr Mosisili as the new prime minister and being removed from their posts of foreign affairs and natural resources. Even though the ministers have at last taken the oath after Dr Mokhehle intervened, some observers still suspect the dust has not settled.
Mr Mosisili has also been advised to compromise to avoid a break by appointing Mr Maope his deputy.
5. Does Dr Mokhehle have a role beyond premiership?
While former presidents and heads of states and governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are planning to play fatherly roles beyond their departures from active politics, it is not known whether the ailing former premier of Lesotho, Dr Ntsu Mokhehle still has a future beyond his premiership.
Former presidents, most of whom have been used to governing for more than ten years in their respective countries, such as Ketumile Masire of Botswana, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, are reported to have decided to form their own ëclubí which will play an advisory role in times of political crisis in the region.
The informal club, sources told Lesotho News Online, will be available to African governments for advice and intervention, especially those in Southern Africa.
Lesothoís former premier (Dr Mokhehle) could be roped in but it is said his fragile health is a problem was a comment from a source in the SADC secretariat, who did not wish to be named.
Despite his fragile health, Dr Mokhehle has already played a very important fatherly role in the two weeks following the elections as he continually intervened, not only to cover the cleavage within the ruling LCD, but also as a political guide and teacher for his successors.
Observers say even though Dr Mokhehle may not be active enough to be part of the informal club of former heads of states and governments in the SADC region, his mere presence in Lesotho is a great boost.
How the informal club will be accepted is a question of how each country will consider its former head of state or government. The club is likely to be accepted where former heads of states and governments are still holding the political clout and are still respected by the incoming governments, such as in Botswana and Tanzania.
Most of these leaders are lucky to be succeeded by their surrogates and leaders from the same political parties they had been leading. For example, it will be easier for Nelson Mandela because the African national Congress is likely to continue ruling after his departure. It is also easier for Ketumile Masire to be accepted because his party is still ruling. The same thing applies to Mwalimu Nyerere.
But for personalities like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, for whom life has never been a bed of roses after he left government, because his administration was succeeded by the opposition, it is not easy for him to be regarded as an advisor.
For Dr Mokhehle, the future depends on the political changes. He will only remain the authority to reckon with so long as the opposition does not take over in Lesotho.
6. ëNegotiate or face strike,í union warns
Textile trades unions seek by hook or crooks negotiations with employers and the government to force them to consider the meagre minimum wage.
The Secretary General for Lesotho Textile, Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU), Billy Macaefa, says the union is trying to secure a meeting with the Ministry of Labour and the textile employers to table workersí demands which include at least M800.00 (US$154.00) minimum wage per month.
The average wage for textile workers is M480.00 (US$92.00) per month.
ìWhen we stopped with our strike in March last year, it was not because we had won or lost the war. It was just because we were approaching an important national issue - general elections - which we did not want to disturb,î says Macaefa.
Textile workers went on strike in February and two workers lost their lives after being shot by the police during the strike. At that time they were demanding minimum wage of at least M500.00 (US$95.00) per month.
Any failure to negotiate or refusal to improve the minimum wage, says Macaefa, will make a national strike inevitable.
There is no exact time for the possible strike and Macaefa does not say after how long following negotiations, which have not started yet, will the strike be called - if negotiations fail to come out in favour of workers.
7. Punch! Donít tick, BCP advises
In what seems to be apparently influenced by the suspicions that the past general elections were rigged leading to the dismal loss of Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and other parties in the past general elections, the party has advised its members in the Moyeni Constituency to punch holes opposite their candidate instead of just marking with a pencil.
When giving reports for Qachaís Nek constituencies at the BCP leadership conference in Maseru recently, the deputy publicity secretary, Ntja Nchochoba, said they had advised party members in Moyeni not to use the provided pencil to tick or a mark with a cross, but to punch a visible hole opposite their candidate.
The opposition parties believe elections have been scientifically rigged. They suspect there is a magnetic ointment on the ballot paper which makes all the marks to disappear while the pre-marked mark opposite LCD candidates emerges after some minutes before the counting.
BCP is saying it is going to use Moyeni as a test case to prove whether there is a scientific magnetism on the ballot paper or not. If LCDís margin of 4000 to 5000 changes, it might be a proof that the punching of a hole on the ballot instead of just ticking has broken the science.
8. BCP members asked to investigate
All Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) members in the constituencies have been asked to mount deep investigations into suspected election irregularities and malpractices and report their findings to the partyís general secretary before June 18.
The leader of BCP, Molapo Qhobela, told Lesotho News Online in a telephonic interview that this was one of the resolutions passed by the leadership conference.
Mr Qhobela said: ìWe had very critical examination or postmortem of what might have happened in the past elections.î
He said the special conference thanked the national executive committee of the party for lodging and appealing against ìJustice Lebona Kheolaís judgementî that elections should continue even when the Independent Electoral Commissionís (IEC) chairman, Sekara Mafisa, refused to provide the political parties with provisional votersí lists. And the committee, in a second resolution, was asked to continue with the case.
A few weeks before the polling day, three main opposition parties; BNP, MFP and BCP, lodged an application requesting the high court to order the postponement of general elections on the grounds that IEC has failed to provide them with provisional lists before elections as required by the electoral law.
Even though the court admitted IEC was wrong by not providing the political parties with provisional list, Justice Lebona Kheola did not agree to postpone elections. He said the political parties could continue with their case after elections if they still wished to complain.
Now,after the elections, the three opposition parties are jointly lodging an appeal ìbased on the provisions of the National Assembly Elections Order No. 10 of 1992.î
Mr Qhobela said: ìPage 41 Section 22 (3), says the Director of Elections, in this case IEC, shall provide a copy of each of the lists prepared under this section, without charge - to the authorised representative of each political party.
ìSection 24 (1) says, the director of elections shall arrange for the printing of - in the case of general elections - electoral lists for each constituency not later than 30 days before the polling day.
ìPage 125 Section 99 (a) (1) says the King may extend time limits in certain cases .... . The King may, by notice in the gazette either before, or after any day specified in a proclamation or an election notice, provide that a general election is to be postponed from the day or days specified in a proclamation or an election notice published under section 48,î Mr Qhobela quoted from the book.
The appeal court is expected to sit any time this month or July.
9. South Africa eating big from Commonwealth
The announcement by Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyauku, that the organisation will provide South Africa with assistance to develop capacity for the policies and programmes which will give real meaning to the principles enshrined in the constitution has displeased several people in Lesotho.
They accuse the Commonwealth of favouritism saying the statement made by Anyauku recently in South Africa has never been made before to any of the 52 Commonwealth member states.
ìClearly it shows that the Commonwealth is favouring South Africa,î said Thabo Mokoena who has studied political science at the National University of Lesotho.
He said: ìAlthough in some little measure the Commonwealth has offered some crumbs to countries like Lesotho, the real bread is going to South Africa.î
A group of more than ten academics in a statement said they fear that South Africa will take everything which used to be a benefit to its neighbouring countries in the apartheid era.
ìThe only solution is that we become part of South Africa..,î one of them said.
Anyauku said that the Commonwealth would endeavour to reconcile the need for wealth creation and development with the defence of democratic liberties to achieve sustainable democratic practices.
He said in order to meet the challenges of the new millennium, the Commonwealth had sought to provide South Africa with assistance in developing institutional capacity for the policies and programmes which give real meaning to the principles enshrined in the constitution.
ìWe must look towards further cooperation in responding to the challenges of reconciliation and reconstruction which still lie ahead,î he told his audience at a conference organised by the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the theme; The Commonwealth and South Africa: Partnership for the New Millennium.
In the last ten years, the Commonwealth has sent to South Africa more than 8 000 experts in the areas of economic, agriculture, industrial and export development, gender awareness, science and technology, environmental protection, poverty alleviation and legal advices.
>From 1993, it has sent 270 experts to provide technical assistance to South Africa.
10. A constituency takes IEC to court
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is to face a lawsuit rap before June 23 when Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) committee in the Mokhotlong Constituency takes it to court to answer for irregularities alleged to have occurred in that area during general elections on May 23.
Khotsang Moshoeshoe, the chairman of BCP committee in Mokhotlong, told Lesotho News Online that the IEC has to answer some outstanding questions and ìprove the free and fairî part of the elections.
He said: ìWe are complaining about the preprogrammed figures of the results of May 23 general elections which (in Mokhotlongís case) were announced by the IEC chairman, Sekara Mafisa, on May 24 over the State Radio ... which do not correspond with the figures of IECís local office in the district.
ìMy constituency and two others, Senqu and Bobatsi, have a similar case to table in court. We have consulted our lawyers about this matter and we hope IEC will be the first respondent, ... Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), which has an interest because it has won the so-called ëfree and fairí elections, will be the second respondent.î
Mr Moshoeshoe said the constituency of Malingoaneng in the same district was still continuing with investigations and he hoped it would join the legal battle before June 23. Election Order of 1992, according to Mr Moshoeshoe, allows complainants to lodge their case within 30 days after the elections.
ìWe also want to know what these international observers mean by free and fair elections when Basotho living in the areas of 3000 metres above sea level, in Mokhotlong, had started queuing from 12 midnight in a chilling winter waiting to cast their votes at 0700hours,î said Mr Moshoeshoe.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 14:26:26 +0200 Subject: LESOTHO NEWS ONLINE #7 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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