MASERU — All Basotho Convention (ABC) party leader Thomas Thabane (pictured) says last Saturday’s three by-elections in Hololo, Mpharane and Sebapala were not “free and fair”.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) won by a landslide in the by-elections that were characterised by low voter turnout.
A bitter Thabane alleges that a day before the elections the Minister of Forestry and Land Reclamation, Ralechate ‘Mokose, went to Mpharane to “sway the vote in LCD’s favour by promising jobs to voters”.
“’Mokose was in Mpharane the day before elections calling voters to show him their IEC voter registration cards and promising them jobs,” Thabane said in an interview on Monday, a few hours after the results were announced.
“IEC commissioner Fako Likoti was immediately alerted of ‘Mokose’s bad conduct and we are yet to hear if measures will be taken against him (‘Mokose).
“Therefore it is a load of rubbish to hail the by-elections as free and fair. They were a sham,” he said adding that he was now hoping Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili would discipline his minister for what he called “electoral misconduct”.
The Lesotho Times could not independently verify the allegation nor could it find any witnesses to corroborate Thabane’s claims.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) spokesperson, Tuoe Hants’i, said the commission was yet to receive a formal complaint from the ABC about the election results.
Minister ‘Mokose refused to comment.
Likoti, the IEC commissioner who Thabane alleged he spoke to about the incident, said he was not allowed to speak to the media.
Yesterday the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations described the elections as generally free and fair.
Observers who spoke to this paper also described the elections as free and fair.
In Sebapala, the LCD’s Kabelo Mafura won 81.7 percent of the vote while the ABC’s Namole Lehlohonolo got 7.9 percent.
In Mpharane, the LCD candidate Matebele Pakela received 56.5 percent of the vote cast while the ABC’s Khobatha Pitso got 25.1 percent.
The LCD’s youthful candidate in Hololo, Teboho Lets’ela, got 55.1 percent of the vote while the ABC’s Mmamahele Radebe got 30.1.
The average voter turnout in the three constituencies was 41 percent.
But Thabane said these results do not reflect the “will of the people”.
He alleged the fact that the ABC’s numbers in the by-elections had remained at 2007 general elections levels “shows that the results are computer managed”.
“The fact that Saturday’s poll results do not show a shift in voting patterns is testimony to the fact the results were engineered,” Thabane said.
“We have more registered supporters than we’re getting. The numbers have remained stagnant. Despite the apparent mistakes, the IEC went ahead and announced the (results) anyway.”
This paper could not verify these allegations.
IEC’s Hants’i said it was unfortunate that Thabane was now complaining in the media instead of approaching the commission.
“There are platforms to discuss any discrepancies there might be. It is unfair because we work hand-in-glove with our stakeholders,” Hants’i said.
“I cannot say what Thabane’s intentions are with regard to what he said about the election results. We went ahead with the announcement of results because there were no objections.
“That he worked hard to mobilise support in the Mpharane constituency is not a guarantee of victory. The results are a reflection of what he worked for.”
Thabane further alleged the inter-schools games organised in Hololo on the election-day were a ploy to “prevent the youth from participating in the election”.
“Who in their right mind would organise sports games on elections day? It was done deliberately, to prevent the youths of Hololo from voting,” he fumed.
“But the IEC should take note of the fact that this is the last time it does as it pleases with elections. The commission should also know that we’re watching.
“The ABC is far from being happy with the outcome. But I have told party supporters to remain calm. We’re too few to be killing each other,” he said.
The ABC candidate for Hololo, Mmamahele Radebe, said the elections were “far from free and fair” because two weeks before the polling day “people were hired to work on the government’s forestry project”.
“When I arrived in places where I was meant to hold meetings with voters, they were nowhere in sight because they had been called for the government projects,” she said.
“How could they refuse when they are poverty-stricken and will take anything thrown their way?”
Radebe claimed Mosisili at his rally in the constituency said if the people voted for the opposition the LCD government would not provide them with services.
“That alone was enough of a threat to turn people’s hearts. It had a significant impact. He threatened the very people who put him in power.
“It was planned in advance that school children would attend sports in Butha-Buthe, to prevent them from going to the polls and voting for the ABC,” she said.
The Basotho National Party’s Moliko Mothepu, who got 127 votes in Mpharane, also said “the results are not a true reflection of the situation on the ground”.
“The results tell a different story when people are complaining about the lack of service delivery,” Mothepu said.
“The results are shocking to say the least. It makes one wonder whether it’s possible for people to complain and then last minute vote for that which makes them miserable.
“The fact that people were hired particularly on that week amounts to vote buying, which is not acceptable,” Mothepu said.