THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) tribunal on Monday ruled in favour of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in a case in which it was accused of vote buying.
The complaint was lodged by the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress of Democracy, Popular Front for Democracy, National Independent Party, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and Lesotho People’s Congress.
In their joint complaint, they alleged that the ABC had contravened Schedule 2 section 122 (4) (h) of the National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011 which stipulates that a political party must “refrain from offering any inducement or reward to any person consideration of such person either joining or not joining any political parties, attending or not attending any political party event; voting or not voting (either at all, or any particular manner”.
Schedule 2 section 122 (4) (n) further stipulates that a party must “take reasonable steps to discipline and restrain their party office bearers, employees, candidates, members and supporters”.
The complaint was lodged in the aftermath of last month’s ABC rallies in Mafeteng (16 April) and in Mohale’s Hoek (23 April).
Dr Thabane and his wife, ‘MaIsiah’s donated goods to elderly and disabled people during the rallies.
The DC was represented by the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Political Advisor Fako Likoti who brought copy of the Lesotho Times newspaper published on 27 April as well as photgraphs taken at the two rallies as evidence of the vote vuying claims.
However, Advocate Tumisang Mosotho who represented the ABC, demanded proof of the authenticity and the source of the photos and the newspaper article on the donations.
Dr Likoti responded by submitting that the fact that he had the copy of the newspaper with him and the pictures was an assurance of their authenticity as was the fact that “everybody was talking about the events of Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek”.
However, Advocate Mosotho argued that the accusation levied against his clients was no different from what the DC had done at its political rallies and therefore “not an infringement of the Code of Conduct”.
He argued that “even if the ABC had given out assistance to its members this would not have been a contravention of the code because there is a prevailing practice among all parties where they provide assistance to their members in various ways such as transport, paid-for meals aand accomodation”.
However, the IEC tribunal ruled that “the complaint was not proven by the complainant due to lack of susbstantian of the documentary evidence submitted to the tribunal,” and therefore “the case is dismissed for lack of evidence”.
“Even assuming that that people at the rallies in question were ABC members and therefore could be assisted by the party on that basis, there is no evidence that all those present were actually ABC members nor guarantee that they will forever be members of ABC for the gift not to have acted as an inducement to influence their political behaviour,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal also held that the complainants submitted “hear-say evidence” which they failed to corroborate despite having “the opportunity to bring in the photographer and/or the source and the authenticity of the photos”.
In the aftermath of the ruling, Dr Likoti said “the judgement had granted the ABC the green light to keep on doing the same because they say we have no corroborative evidence”.
“However, we as the seven parties, are not going to go down that road.
“We would however, like to congratulate ABC for its victory; to us it means that the tribunal has deemed the whole electoral act meaningless,” Dr Likoti told this publication.