KAO, Liqhobong and Letšeng diamond mines have been accused of coercing their workers into signing advance voters applications by their employers in violation of their rights, the Lesotho Times has learnt.
The allegations are contained in letter written by the Construction and Mine Workers Union (CAMAU) and Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) to the Independent Electoral commission (IEC), calling on the latter to intervene and protect the rights of mine workers.
In the letter dated 25 April addressed to the IEC director, Letholetseng Nts’ike, CAMAU Secretary General Advocate Rapelang Mosae said, “ it has come to our attention as CAMAU and TRC that employees in the mines of Kao, Liqhobong and Letšeng have been put on to sign advance voters applications without their consent”.
National elections are due on 3 June after the prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led coalition government succumbed to last month’s vote of no confidence by the opposition bloc.
According to the IEC’s elections time table, advance voters are expected to have submitted their request for admission to vote by Saturday 30 May.
The National Assembly electoral Act of 2011 chapter six on voting in section 73 (1) limits the categories of electors eligible to be admitted as advance voters.
The Act reads: “an elector may apply to vote as an advance elector if the elector is not able to vote on the elections day at the voting station allocated to the elector in terms of section 7 (1) (e) because the elector:
“Is a public officer employed in the service of the government of Lesotho in another country; is the dependent or employee of such an officer and who resides with the officer in that other country; is a public officer who will be outside Lesotho on official duty on the elections day;
“Is a candidate or agent; will be carrying out official elections duties as an election officer, a police officer or a member of the Defence Force; or will be performing the functions of an elections observer, journalist, medical personnel or security personnel on the elections day”.
However, CAMAU alleged that the mines sought to force workers to apply for advance voting on the pretext that “they will be on the working shift” on the election day.
“It is our contention that this is a violation of workers’ rights to force them to apply for advance voting.
“It is equally important to note that the National Assembly Electoral Act of 2011 section 73 (1) (a) to (e) categorically states types of persons who qualify to vote as advance voters,” Advocate Mosae said in the letter.
Advocate Mosae further argued that it is a criminal offence for employers to “force workers to provide the IEC false information about employment details in order to manipulate the application for advance voting; prohibit workers from voting Saturday 3 June, 2017 on the basis that they will be on the working shift on that day”.
He therefore called upon the IEC to make public announcements to all employers that all their respective employees would be afforded time to vote as stipulated by the National Assembly Electoral Act 2011 in Section 77.
He also requested that the IEC investigates the allegations and take appropriate measures to redress the irregularities and communicate measures taken to the union.
For his part, the TRC’s Tsikoane Peshoane accused government condoning the foreign businesses’ culture of contravening the electoral act by its failure to designate a special electoral day during the week.
Mr Peshoane said there was a dire need for the workers’ rights and their right to vote to be protected by the IEC with public announcements that would quell their fears of being disenfranchised from the elections.
Meanwhile, the IEC spokesperson, Tuoe Hantsi said only persons in the categories provided for by the electoral act would be admitted as advance voters.
Mr Hantsi also said the list does not include mine workers.
He further stated that the inspection of the advance voters’ roll is done by the commission together with legally mandated representatives of political parties referred to as party agents.