BASOTHO Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader, Jeremane Ramathebane, is blaming the police for losing last month’s snap election, claiming some officers threatened his supporters against voting for “a criminal”.
Mr Ramathebane (61) had one Proportional Representation (PR) seat in the last parliament, but failed to get enough votes in the 28 February poll to warrant a PR seat in the 9th National Assembly. The Democratic Congress (DC) won the poll with 47 seats (37 constituency and 10 PR), followed by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) with 46 (40 constituency and six PR).
According to Mr Ramathebane, his party would have fared much better had members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) not bullied his supporters and threatened them against associating themselves with someone facing fraud charges. The eccentric BBDP leader is now threatening to take unspecified action against the police “once the political dust settles”.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s inauguration of DC leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, as the country’s new prime minister, Mr Ramathebane told the Lesotho Times: “There was no way I was going to win the elections because some members of the police were threatening my supporters against voting for me, claiming I was a criminal, yet they are failing to substantiate the charges they have leveled against me before the courts.”
A Member of Parliament (MP) since 2007, Mr Ramathebane faces fraud charges before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court, alongside his wife, ’Mateboho Ramathebane (48), who is also the BBDP secretary general, as well as party treasurer, ’Matanki Matsoakeletse.
The trio is accused of allegedly submitting false information to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) concerning the number of BBDP supporters.
The case has been pending before the court since the accused were released on bail and surety in March 2014.
But according to Mr Ramathebane, the case continues to stall because the prosecution does not have any evidence that he committed any crime concerning his party he formed in December 2006.
“The prosecution has no evidence against me because the police have failed to prove that I committed the fraud they are alleging.
“The reason why they don’t have the evidence that I falsified information concerning our membership is that the intention, in the first place, was to threaten my people so that they don’t vote for our party. You see, the police confiscated our party’s registration book and then went house-to-house threatening those in the register by telling them that I was facing fraud charges and if they were my supporters, they could be facing the same charges as accomplices.
“This scared away our members, who ended up leaving the party, leading to our poor performance in the election.”
Mr Ramathebane said it did not make sense that he received less than half the votes he garnered in the 2012 parliamentary election.
“The party had 2 800 votes in 2012, and the figure dropped to 1 290 in the recent election, and this was due to the threats I am talking about.
“I am not such a loser that I could be defeated by smaller parties which got some seats in parliament. I am a better leader than most of the politicians in this coalition government of seven parties that Ntate (Pakalitha) Mosisili will be leading as prime minister.”
Asked why he had not lodged a complaint against the police for the alleged threats against his supporters, Mr Ramathebane said: “I am just waiting for the dust to settle. There is a change of government taking place at the moment and I am waiting to see how things will go, and I will then make my move.”
Contacted for comment on Mr Ramathebane’s claims, Police Spokesperson, Lebona Mohloboli, said the “utterances” were meant to tarnish the image of the LMPS as they were “unfounded”
Senior Inspector Mohloboli added: “Ntate Ramathebane is making these unfounded claims just to smear the good image of the LMPS. LMPS members are not political when they are doing their job. If what he is saying was true, why has Ntate Ramathebane not lodged a case against the police? He should have sought a court order to release the registry book if he needed it for his election campaign. The police, on the other hand, cannot go out and threaten voters, in-fact, they protect the voters’ right to vote freely. What the man is saying is unfounded and an attempt to tarnish the image of the police.”