South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, says Lesotho’s destiny can only be determined by Basotho while the international community just plays a supportive role in ensuring stability in the kingdom.
Ms Nkoana-Mashabane, who made the remark at the launch of the Southern African Development Community Electoral Observer Mission to Lesotho’s 2015 National Assembly Elections in Maseru yesterday, urged Basotho to ensure a peaceful poll and political parties to accept the outcome.
“Following the proclamation of 28 February 2015 as the date to hold the National Assembly Elections, Lesotho, in accordance with provisions of SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, invited SADC to observe the polls.
“It was against this background that the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Jacob Zuma, constituted the SADC Electoral Observer Mission to observe the elections, and appointed me as Head of Mission—an assignment I accepted with great humility.”
The minister added the importance of elections could not be overemphasized in a democratic society.
“It is indeed with a deep sense of pride that we acknowledge election-observation has become the norm and part and parcel of democratic processes in our region, and indeed, democratic values that underpin our regional organisation.
“It is also important to underscore that elections provide a platform for genuine and true participation of the people in the political and governance process, through electing leaders of their choice.
“Within the SADC family, of which the Kingdom of Lesotho is an integral part, we long recognised the primacy of elections in a democracy.
“In the case of Lesotho, the current elections are being held in particular circumstances since they are part of a joint effort by Basotho and the region to find a lasting solution that will lead to peace, security and stability in the kingdom.
“Basotho therefore, deserve to be congratulated for having chosen a peaceful route to resolve their political challenges. However, it is important to emphasise the on-going dialogue among Basotho in their quest for peace, security and stability , is fully supported and facilitated by SADC, but at the end, the decision lies in the hands of the people to resolve their political differences peacefully and rebuild and develop their own nation.”
Ms Nkoana-Mashabane further said the observer mission had a “primary responsibility to establish whether the elections have been conducted in a manner that is peaceful, free and fair, transparent and credible.”
Her Mission, she added, would be in Lesotho after the elections to ensure the outcome is accepted by all parties, and any challenge of the result done according to the law.
“The Mission will continue to observe the post- election period in order to determine the acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties as proclaimed by competent National Electoral Authorities in accordance with the laws of the land.
“The Mission would also ensure any challenge to the election results is to be conducted as provided for in the laws of the land.
“Following today’s launch, members of the Organ Troika, led by myself, and supported by representatives of Namibia, as the outgoing Chair of the Organ, will engage with the leadership of Lesotho, political parties, civil society organisations, the media as well as the Independent Electoral Commission.
“The purpose of our interaction will be to listen to all interested parties and stakeholders, to be apprised of the state of preparations ahead of the election and assess the state of readiness.”
“As per tradition on election observation, SADC observers will be visible prior to, and on voting day wherever possible, to affirm SADC’s commitment and support to fellow peoples of the Kingdom of Lesotho in their quest for democracy.
“As we head to the actual Election Day, it is our hope that all political parties will, as usual, conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful, free and fair, democratic election, as this country has done previously.
“May this election also be an indication of true citizenry participation in the political process by the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho. We further wish to inform you the SADC preliminary statement on the electoral process will be released on 2 March 2015.”
Lesotho is holding an election two years ahead of schedule due to sharp differences between the leaders of the tripartite government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.