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SADC rejects opposition rigging claims

 

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) has rejected the former coalition government’s claim that the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections were rigged and its call for a forensic audit of the polls.

Instead, the regional bloc has affirmed the SADC Electoral Observation Mission’s (SEOM) statement soon after the elections that the electoral process was generally “peaceful, credible and transparent”.

The 3 June 2017 polls resulted in the ouster of the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven party government after four parties cobbled together their 63 seats to form a governing coalition.

The four governing parties consist of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention, Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

The previous government was made up of Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party, Basotho Congress Party, National Independent Party, Lesotho People’s Congress and Popular Front for Democracy.

The parties only served just two years of their five-year term after the now ruling coalition engineered a parliamentary no-confidence vote on 1 March 2017.

Ahead of Dr Thabane’s 16 June 2017 inauguration, the former governing parties sent a letter to then SADC chairperson, King Mswati III, in which they claimed the elections were rigged by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

King Mswati III handed over the SADC chair post to South African President Jacob Zuma during the regional bloc’s 37th Double Troika summit held last weekend in Pretoria, South Africa.

They accused the electoral body of “secretly” registering people many days after the deadline and also claimed that “busloads” of South Africans were ferried into Lesotho to illegally vote among other alleged irregularities.

“Many voters were transferred illegally from their constituencies and moved to certain targeted constituencies in order to enable a certain party to win in those specific constituencies,” read part of the letter to King Mswati III.

The former governing parties further alleged that lower quality ink was used in some constituencies instead of indelible ink.

“This inevitably led to wide spread multiple voting, more so as the IEC had discarded use of ultra-violet light to check against multiple voting.”

In light of their allegations, the parties had called for a forensic audit of the polls led by SADC “which will establish the extent of these irregularities and thereby make a determination as to whether the results of this election are a true reflection of the will of the people of Lesotho”.

They had also urged SADC to push for a government of national unity that would include all the parties represented in parliament as well as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

King Mswati III responded to the previous government’s correspondence in a letter dated 23 June 2017 and addressed to Dr Mosisili.

In the letter, the Swazi monarch states that the SEOM was deployed to observe the polls in line with SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

“The SEOM preliminary statement, as issued on 5 June 2017, describes the electoral process as generally peaceful, credible and transparent,” states King Mswati III.

“The findings of the SEOM are consistent with the preliminary statements of all the other international observation missions.

“Furthermore, SADC notes that 21 political parties out of the 29 that participated in the general elections accepted the results, by signing a statement of acceptance of election results that was signed on 7th June 2017.”

This was in reference to the Election Acceptance Pledge facilitated by the Christian Council of Lesotho in which both the DC and LCD appended their signatures.

King Mswati III asserts that issues of concern would be discussed during a national stakeholders’ dialogue that is set to be convened at the instigation of SADC.

“In line with the SADC Summit Decisions, we believe that the Kingdom of Lesotho will convene a National Stakeholders’ Dialogue, a forum which will allow the exchange of views and ideas on how to foster prosperity and political stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho. This is the forum where different matters can be discussed,” His Majesty says.

“Honourable MP (Dr Mosisili), SADC remains committed to supporting the Kingdom of Lesotho towards the realisation of durable peace, security, democracy and economic prosperity and encourages all stakeholders to support this endeavour.”

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