‘Sadc not too soft on Mugabe’

Mohlabi Tsekoa and Thomas ThabaneBy Thato Matsie & Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane yesterday denied that Sadc leaders have been too soft on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe who won a controversial election last month.

Sadc countries declared Zimbabwe’s July 31 elections peaceful and free despite that the voters roll was seriously flawed.

The position of Sadc is in sharp contrast to that of the United States and Australia which have said the election result did “not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people”.

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also dismissed the election as “a farce”.

Speaking at a press conference in Maseru yesterday, Thabane said although Sadc had given the poll a clean bill of health, Lesotho will continue to advocate for a clean electoral list.

He said Sadc is not soft on Mugabe and his Madagascan counterpart, Andry Rajoelina, who was backed by the army to topple the legally elected president Marc Ravalomanana.

“Sadc is serious about the affairs of those countries and we are not going to allow them to do as they like,” Thabane said, adding: “Democracy must be left to prevail.”

He said the elections in Zimbabwe and the upcoming one in Madagascar should reflect the democratic will of the people adding he is not pessimistic about the future of democracy in Sadc in light of what happened in Zimbabwe.

Thabane said the Zimbabwe case does not set a precedent for elections in the Sadc region.

Thabane encouraged Basotho youth to do their utmost to ensure clean, free and fair elections in Lesotho.

He said the youth must learn from what is happening in the region so that they can take tips and do better than they are doing in the future because the future of the country lies in their hands.

“Make sure that you will not fall in the same potholes we fell in,” Thabane said, adding that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that Sadc prospers.

“We have got a long way to go in Sadc. As regards the Zimbabwe elections, we have not scored 100 percent but we are above 50 percent, meaning that we have passed,” he said.

“We must strive to make the best of democracy. Our behaviour as people, as Christians, should determine our future.”

Speaking at the same conference, the Deputy Minister of Trade S’Khulumi Ntsoaole said it is better for the Sadc region to focus on the good done by Mugabe than dwell on the bad side.

“The issue of the Zimbabwe elections has been approached with great care, bearing in mind that (Mugabe) still has a lot of following,” Ntsoaole said.

“Give him more carrot to eat so that he may come back to his senses,” he said.

The Lesotho government said it felt that it should take the Sadc stance on Zimbabwe elections because “unlike in the past when elections in that country were mired in violence, this time there has been no noise”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa said Sadc sent its delegation to Zimbabwe ahead of time to assess the freeness, peacefulness and fairness of the whole polling process and “we accepted their report of peaceful and free elections”.

However, Tsekoa said it is worth noting that the report showed that there were some serious irregularities even though they could not warrant the nullification of the elections.

“Sadc came to its conclusion in light of the report that was tabled by its observer mission,” Tsekoa said.

The Sadc summit that was held in Malawi from last Friday to Sunday elected Malawian President Joyce Banda as its chairperson, deputized by Mugabe.

The organ on politics, defence and security is chaired by Namibia’ President Hikifepunye Pohamba while Thabane was elected his deputy.

These deputies will be chairpersons next year.

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