Opposition sharply divided

MASERU – Lesotho’s voters’ roll, which is said to be inflated by over a 100 000 ghost voters, has left opposition parties sharply divided.
A meeting called to discuss the status of the roll on Monday was inconclusive with some parties demanding that local government elections be postponed to allow time to clean up the register.
The elections are due on October 1.
A recent report, titled The State of the voters’ roll as at July 2011, which was released by electoral expert
R W Johnson last week, said the roll was infested with individuals who were either dead or were too young to vote.
Johnson was contracted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to assess the state of the voters’ database.
The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Basotho Batho Democratic Party argued that it did not make sense to risk going for elections with a defective roll.
MFP leader, Moeketse Malebo, said the IEC had failed to carry out its constitutional mandate to clean the register.
“The IEC has been sitting with a defective register for the past five years. It should have been cleaned. Are we saying we should go to elections with this roll?” Malebo said.
“I will go, but you should all know I harbour the opinion that it will be with a defective roll. Johnson should know that even our very own census was defective and was a farce.”
Malebo said it was sad to note that although Lesotho was just six months away from national elections preparations for “local government elections are a complete mess”.
“We’ve even messed up the demarcation of electoral divisions. I’m ready to go for elections, but only with a clean roll,” Malebo said.
BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane also accused the IEC of incompetence saying it was apparent that the electoral commission had not done its job because people who were supposed to be registered “are not being registered”.
“My party is calling for re-registration, one that is clean and proper. The IEC and chiefs should have cleaned the register,” ’Maseribane said.
’Maseribane also challenged IEC chairman Limakatso Mokhothu to crack the whip and take action against “IEC employees who are not doing their job”.
“When will you take action against lazy staff? You’ve ended up engaging a white man as if there are no Basotho qualified enough to man the database,” ’Maseribane said.
He said the IEC chairperson Mokhothu should be prepared to accept “court cases, litigation and conflict” likely to be triggered by the local government elections.
Basotho Batho Democratic Party leader, Jeremane Ramathebane, was also adamant that the elections should be postponed and combined with national elections in order to allow time “to clean up the register”.
“If registration is not clean, especially because it is the core of elections, let us not take a dirty route. Let us abandon dirty ways of doing things,” Ramathebane said.
The leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC)
party, Thomas Thabane, said Johnson’s report was thoroughly “misguided”.
“He (Johnson) gives false hope that we can go to elections with this roll. Hope translates into some concrete reality. It defies logic how he reached his conclusions,” Thabane said.
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Lesao Lehohla, said he was agreeable to the issue of re-registration if it was the only way to secure peace in Lesotho.
“I am not saying whether or not elections should be postponed. But if re-registration will buy us peace for the country, let it be,” Lehohla said.
The smaller political parties like Popular Front for Democracy, Lesotho Worker’s Party, Basotho Democratic National Party, Basotho Congress Party and Senkatana Party were adamant that elections should go ahead despite Johnson’s findings.
LWP deputy leader Sello Maphalla said if political leaders were to fall into the trap of pushing for yet another postponement of elections “it will be unfair to the public”.
“Basotho are in dire need of services through councillors in their respective community councils.
“We need to go for local government elections if there is assurance that the roll will deliver credible elections,” Maphalla said.
Maphalla said a postponement would mean seeking amendments to the electoral laws “which can only be done through parliament”.
“If you really feel a postponement is crucial, you might as well call for parliament to resume so that we can amend the relevant laws,” he said.
BDNP deputy leader Pelele Letsoela said if a defective voters’ roll was the reason behind the reluctance among opposition leaders to go for elections “it is nothing new”.
“Even if we postpone these elections to re-register, we can’t get perfect registration,” Letsoela said.

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