BATTLE lines are drawn in the impoverished rural constituency of Hololo, about 130km north of the capital Maseru.
The nine candidates — four independents and the rest from Lesotho’s major political parties — have promised each other a fight to the finish.
The by-election has been set for May 22.
The seat fell vacant last November following the death of the constituency’s Member of Parliament, Nthofeela Lesala, who represented the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
Lesala died on November 25 after a long illness.
Hololo constituency has traditionally been a stronghold of the ruling LCD party.
The LCD won 1 823 votes in the 2007 general election against the ABC’s 1 115 votes.
The Basotho National Party (BNP) came an embarrassing third with a paltry 102 votes, which represented just three percent of the votes cast.
The LCD’s votes represented 46 percent of all the votes that were cast in that constituency.
This week, Lesotho Times Political Editor BONGIWE ZIHLANGU spoke to four of the candidates who will contest the election to gather their views on the keenly anticipated poll.
The candidates are from the LCD, the ABC, BNP and an independent.
Teboho Lets’ela, who was born on April 15 1987, is representing the LCD in the by-election.
The 23-year-old with boyish looks says he was never in the party’s structures.
Lets’ela stunned the ruling party’s political establishment when he beat 10 other candidates in the party’s primary elections on April 2.
“I might not have featured in any structures of the party. But I enjoy immense support within the party,” Lets’ela says.
“They support me because I have always been there with them.”
Lets’ela is currently studying for an honors degree in accounting with the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
He says since the LCD bagged the seat in 2007 “there is no doubt we will emerge victorious yet again”.
Lets’ela says he has already made arrangements with the university to pursue his studies part-time as he has no ounce of doubt that “I will make it into parliament”.
He says his youth is his biggest asset.
“Being young gives me an advantage over my rivals in that the majority of this constituency’s population is the youth,” he says.
“The ABC candidate is old and I am sure she has nothing (to offer).”
He says the party will secure the seat because of its policy of providing free primary school education, free health and old age pensions.
The ABC will be represented by Mmamahele Radebe.
Radebe says her biggest weapon is the LCD’s failure to fulfill election promises made in 2007.
“They have only delivered on two percent of their promises. The roads in Hololo are bad throughout the constituency.
“The road from Ngoajane to Khukhune was last maintained during the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. All the roads within the constituency are in a very bad shape.”
Radebe points out water scarcity as one of the major challenges facing Hololo.
“People have to walk for several kilometers to get water. But by right no human being should walk for more than 250 metres in search of water,” she says.
“People have to do their laundry in rivers and streams. The elderly have to fork out a portion of their meagre M300 old age pension to hire boys to get them water.”
Radebe expresses concern over the high unemployment rate in the constituency.
“People are compelled to travel to South Africa in search of jobs, only to be ruthlessly deported by the police,” she says.
“Meanwhile this government is sitting on its laurels instead of exploring what mechanisms they could put in place to curb the high level of deportations.
Speaking about the LCD candidate, Lets’ela, Radebe is equally scathing.
“The boy has no experience in politics and life in general. They are just burdening him with a heavy responsibility,” she says defiantly.
“I do not deny that we need new blood to transform the face of politics. But in his case the LCD did not do its homework thoroughly. The boy does not know much about politics.”
The BNP will be represented at the polls by Abraham Selahla.
Selahla was the BNP’s candidate in the 2007 election in which his party lost dismally.
This time, he hopes Lady Luck will smile on him on May 22.
Selahla, who says he is in his 60s, believes this time his party will romp to victory.
“My main advantage is my determination to conduct a door-to-door campaign to mobilise support for the BNP,” Selahla says.
His main concerns for the Hololo constituency are bad roads which he claims hamper economic development and the lack of electricity.
“We need better roads. I am not referring to tarred roads only. I mean gravel roads leading into villages,” Selahla says.
“People are forced to walk long distances to the main road because the roads are just too bad for taxis to go into villages.
“We will build proper roads. We will not emulate the LCD by fixing roads only when their dignitaries visit our villages.
“We also are in dire need of electricity for commercial and domestic purposes and curbing stock theft. Street lights can go a long way in helping in the fight against stock theft.”
Selahla adds that clinics are scarce and situated in awkward locations.
“People have to walk long distances or hire cars to have their sick transported closer to health facilities and that can be frustrating,” he says.
“They (LCD) want to give away our land to whites and the public must know that it would be horribly wrong to support the LCD under the circumstances,” he says regarding the Land Bill which has been passed by parliament and is currently before Senate.
Motseki Lengeta, 52, is an independent candidate who is a former member of the ABC.
“I chose to contest the elections as an independent because there is no honesty and transparency within political parties,” he says.
“I stand a good chance against the LCD, ABC and BNP because of a host of issues. The ABC for one imposed its candidate on the people. They are angry and have split into factions.
“The BNP has made people angry by keeping a leader who does not enjoy the support of the people. Because of him the party’s structures in Hololo have completely collapsed.
“The LCD on the other hand has also overstepped the mark by nominating a candidate who does not feature in the party structures.
“To the people he is an unknown and that alone has killed the party’s chances of victory.”
“The people agree with me that this constituency is in the intensive care unit and needs urgent rescuing,” Lengeta says.
Lengeta says he is a former police intelligence officer.
He says his main agenda is to curb the frightening crime levels in the constituency.
“I intend to curb stock theft and the high crime rate through a body called the National Crime Authority,” Lengeta says.
“Through this structure I will be able to break the chain of organised crime.”
“Achieving my goals will not be that difficult. I just need the people’s support at the polls,” he says.