Race for Mpharane hots up

MASERU — The race for the May 22 by-election has kicked off in the Mpharane constituency in Mohale’s Hoek.

Seven candidates — three independents and four from Lesotho’s major political parties — are vying for the seat.

The seat fell vacant after the death of ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party legislator, Constantinus Ramakatsa, in January this year.

Mpharane constituency has traditionally been an LCD stronghold.

The numbers in the 2007 general election attest to the strong grip that the ruling party has on the constituency.

The LCD won 67 percent of the votes cast in the general election. It won the constituency with 3 129 votes.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC) party came a distant second with 1 059 votes or 26 percent while the Basotho National Party (BNP) scored 427 votes or a measly nine percent.

This week the Lesotho Times spoke to three of the candidates to find out why they think the people of Mpharane should vote for them.

 

 

ABC

he ABC’s Khobatha Pitso, 52, says he is confident of winning the seat because “it is the right thing for the people of Mpharane not to vote for the LCD because the ruling party has let down the people”.

“We (ABC) aim to alleviate poverty and improve the peoples’ way of life. This is something which the LCD has dismally failed to do.”

He says the LCD candidate is a political novice who has no “muscle to beat the ABC”.

“He does not have the intelligence to beat the ABC. His political knowledge is limited and he therefore lacks the potential to launch a successful campaign,” Pitso says.

“The people of Mpharane are already frustrated by the lack of development. They are hungry for change.

“We lost out in the 2007 elections due to time constraints imposed by the LCD. But we have had ample time to prove the ABC’s worth in the Lesotho political landscape.”

Pitso says he expects to garner over half of the total votes from the constituency.

“I expect to be elected by no less than 3 000 people when we go to the polls next month.

“I know that given a chance I can rescue the people of Mpharane from abject poverty,” he says.

The LCD has already shot itself in the foot by pushing the Land Bill 2009, Pitso says.

“People are very vigilant when it comes to land issues. Nobody wants to have their land taken from them. The LCD has dug its own grave by tampering with the land issue.

“The state of agriculture is also a cause for concern and I must convince people that nobody in their right mind would vote for a party that is as uncaring as the LCD.”

The people of Mpharane, Pitso says, want better health facilities, good roads, water and electricity.

“We are in dire need of water and the roads in Mpharane are so bad it makes one’s head spin. The lack of electricity also affects the constituency’s economic growth,” Pitso says.

“Health facilities are also very scarce and it inconveniences people a great deal. Given a chance, the ABC will do wonders.”

 

LCD

he LCD’s Metebele Pakela, 48, is a man of few words.

Pakela says the opposition party candidates will swallow their words come May 22.

“Campaigning has been fierce on the ground and I have faith that we will win the Mpharane constituency again,” Pakela says.

Pakela, who insists that he be asked questions exclusively in Sesotho, says he is content with the impact of government development projects in Mpharane.

That, he says, will be an added advantage for him in the by-election.

“The LCD government has built roads and will continue to do so because we already have plans in place.

“We will also focus on the construction of a dam which will supply the constituency with water. We will also instal electricity in people’s homes and at their business premises.”

Pakela says so far the LCD government has done a lot to develop the area.

“So far everything that the government has done for us in the constituency is satisfactory. I am not in a position to question the party because we are doing just fine.”

On the poor health facilities and services in the constituency, Pakela apportions the blame on staff which he says “lacks discipline”.

“The truth is that we have clinics around the constituency. When I make it into parliament I am going to call for disciplinary measures to be taken against negligent employees in our health facilities.”

Pakela says issues surrounding the Land Bill 2009 “should also be left alone”.

“I believe the explanation we have got from our government about the Land Bill 2009 is enough. If I were to talk about it I would be spoiling everything and defying the LCD constitution.

“I will take over from where Ntate Ramakatsa left off. I am only a servant who takes orders from our leaders within the party structures,” Pakela says.

 

 

BNP

he BNP’s Moliko Mothepu is optimistic that he stands a chance in the Mpharane by-election.

“All the development you find in Mpharane today was done by the BNP. The police station, post office and health centre are BNP legacies,” Mothepu says.

“We also have a healthy track record of delivery in that we were able to launch sustainable programmes. For one, we had sustainable food security projects.

“This way Basotho were able to produce food for their families and for commercial purposes.”

Mothepu says the fact that the BNP is contesting the Mpharane by-election is one way to show that “we are positioning ourselves to be a government in 2012”.

“This is a by-election with a difference. We are signalling a message to the LCD, ABC and all other political parties that the BNP is a government-in-waiting,” Mothepu says boldly.

“The LCD has failed to deliver anything meaningful to anyone. We are boldly saying the LCD is a moribund administration. We need to show the LCD that it’s time up.”

Mothepu says his campaign will focus on the impact of the Land Bill 2009, declining agricultural production and the lack of reliable health facilities.

The roads are in a bad shape, he says.

“The people of Mpharane rely on agriculture for a living. But the government has not fulfilled its mandate of supplying them with inputs and machinery to plough their fields,” Mothepu says.

“There should be markets for commercial farming so that people could dispose of their produce while in the process generating an income. Farmers should also be provided with medication for their livestock to thrive.

“Since health facilities are for the benefit of the people they should work round the clock and provide the sick with medication,” he says.

 

 

 

 

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