MASERU — The ruling Democratic Congress (DC) party this week bowed to pressure from the church when it ditched its symbol of the cross.
The Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC) had gone on the offensive in criticising the DC for adopting the cross as the party’s symbol.
The groups said the use of the cross was demeaning to the church.
They urged the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to bar its use for political purposes.
In a stunning U-turn on Tuesday, DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki told a media briefing they had dumped the cross and were now using a three-legged Basotho traditional pot as their new symbol.
Moleleki said the new symbol, which he said signified balance, would be used on the DC flag as well as for purposes of elections.
He said the three-legged pot signified the party’s three supreme committees: the national executive committee, youth and women’s leagues.
At national level, the DC said, the pot indicated three structures of governance namely the public, as well as local and central government.
“The pot is also easily recognised in our culture as it is religiously used in a majority of Basotho homes,” Moleleki said.
Lineo Molise-Mabusela, the DC media liaison official and home affairs deputy minister, said the pot indicated that the new party would cook sumptuous meals for the advancement of Basotho.
“It also shows democracy: the people, local and central governance,” Molise-Mabusela said.
Also present at the press conference were the DC’s secretary general Ralechate ‘Mokose, women’s league president Ponts’o Sekatle and some of the new party’s MPs.
Moleleki said they had decided to ditch the symbol of the cross as they did not want to pick up an unnecessary quarrel with the church.
But he was adamant that the use of the cross by a political party was not blasphemous.
“The Democratic Congress also wishes to place it on record that its decision to change its election symbol is not because it believes that choosing the cross was a mistake,” Moleleki said.
“If using the cross was indeed sacrilegious, surely the leadership of the Christian church would have registered its objection in the use of the cross in past elections.”
He added that independent candidates had been allowed to use the crucifix as their symbol in previous elections.
“In the last local government election alone, Mochochoko Molahlehi and Mohale Mothebesoane used the crucifix as their symbol,” he said.
Sekonyela Tlohang of the Mohlakeng Community Council and Mohalenyana Boranta Moshe of the Qiloane Community Council “had also used the cross”.
“In that recent instance the church leadership remained silent, as it indeed had not seen anything amiss with the use of the crucifix in previous elections in the country,” Moleleki said.
“After that, as before, the IEC continued to make the cross available to anyone wishing to use it for their election campaign.”
Moleleki added that the Law Office had registered a Christian political party, the African Christian Front for Democracy, whose letterhead features “a cross, an open book (presumably the Bible) and folded praying hands”.
The church had remained silent when the cross was being used by these individuals “yet the symbols referred to here have an uncanny resemblance to the Christian cross,” Moleleki said.
Molise-Mabusela said the DC cross was “very similar to the Canadian Red Cross” made up of five equal-sized squares forming a cross resting on a white background.
“It is the one that the DC had chosen but in black.
“This cross like so many others has no relationship whatsoever to Christ, Christianity or the Crucifix,” Molise-Mabusela said.
Moleleki added that the DC leadership was made up of “practicing Christians” who would not be disrespectful of the church and its symbols.
“They feel that sad would be the day when they are perceived as, or even accused of, being disrespectful towards the Church and its symbols,” he said.
He however lashed out at the church leadership for not consulting with the DC first before going public with their concerns.
“The DC is particularly disturbed that the said church leadership did not deem it right and fair, as a matter of good faith, to call them for consultations and advice on this matter,” Moleleki said.
He said this showed that “these honourable and respected men of the cloth” were acting in bad faith.
In a letter to the IEC dated February 28, 2012, CCL secretary general Mahao Johane said the church had observed with great concern the use of the cross by political parties and independent candidates.
“We submit that the cross is a first and foremost Christian religious symbol; a symbol of religious identity.
“A cross is also a symbol of the CCL,” Johane said in the letter.
“In view of the foregoing therefore, I am instructed by the heads of churches within the CCL to strongly contest the use of this sacred and important religious symbol, and official symbol of the CCL by political entities.”
He added: “We therefore humbly request that the IEC reverses the status quo, and also block the use of the cross as an official symbol by party or independent political entities.”
The LCBC’s coordinating committee made up of Joseph Mahlatsi, Christopher Motsetsela and Clementina Thatho also condemned the usage of the cross “in politics”.
It said the use of the cross by the DC was an abomination and demonstration of disrespect for “the wounds Christ suffered on the cross”.
The LCBC had threatened to take to the streets in protest if the DC refused to abandon the symbol.
This is the second time that the DC, which was formed a fortnight ago by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has been forced to abandon its proposed symbol.
The party had originally chosen the symbol of a traditional Basotho shield adorned with a spear and a knobkerrie.
However, the party was forced to drop the symbol by the Law Office after it noted the symbol was similar to Lesotho’s Court of Arms.