Masire jets in

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MASERU – Former president of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire arrived in Lesotho yesterday to resume talks between the government and opposition parties over the 2007 election dispute.

Masire will this morning pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and His Majesty King Letsie III at the Royal Palace.

Masire will meet representatives of opposition parties at a local hotel in the afternoon.

Masire was appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition parties following a dispute over the allocation of proportional representation seats in parliament.

Previous efforts by Masire to resolve the dispute have failed over the past two years.

Earlier this year Mosisili appeared reluctant to deal with the dispute saying it was now a closed subject.

The leader of Lesotho’s main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, Thomas Thabane, said he still had faith in Masire’s mediation.

 “The engagement of Masire and SADC is an indication that there is recognition that there is a problem. They would not send a man of Masire’s calibre to Lesotho if there was no problem,” Thabane said.

Thabane said he still had confidence that SADC would help resolve the PR issue peacefully.

“We believe in SADC, Masire and peaceful dispute resolutions,” Thabane said.

He said the ABC would continue pushing for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

“We will not use weapons or resort to violent measures. We will only use peaceful and democratic tactics to convey our message.”

The leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Metsing Lekhanya, was pessimistic over the visit saying he did not expect much from Masire’s mediation.

“I do not have much faith in the talks,” Lekhanya said.

He said Mosisili and former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary general, Mpho Malie, did not want the talks to continue.

“The Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla said if there was a problem (with the 2007 elections) it would be sorted out in 2012,” Lekhanya said.

Lesotho is due to hold general elections in 2012.

The BNP boss said the main problem was that two electoral models were applied in 2007 creating problems for opposition parties.

He said political parties must deal with the problem now before considering going for fresh elections.

Lekhanya said his party’s position was that they needed to listen to what Masire had to say.

He said his party would walk out of the talks if Masire failed to answer questions they will pose to him.

He said they want Masire to tell them when electoral experts that he promised on his last visit would come to Lesotho to interpret the PR models for them.

“The interpretation of the model used in the National Assembly is Proportional Representation, whereas in application it is parallel.

“The MPs who gained access to parliament in that manner should be chucked out because a ‘one man two votes’ system was applied,” Lekhanya said.

The secretary general of Senkatana party, Karabo Tlhoeli, said his new party had no direct interest in the dispute at present “because we have no PR seats”.

“But our concern is the correctness of the principle, for it to be straightened out,” Thloeli said.

Thloeli also said that the PR model was applied differently in the 2002 elections in comparison to the 2007 elections. He said it was not clear which of the two applications was correct.

“As Senkatana, we are inclined to believe the correct model was that of 2002. There is still unfinished business.

“If this issue is not solved before we go to the 2012 elections it will provide us with a host of interpretations, giving people leverage to capitalise on them to further their interests,” Thloeli said.

He said the 2007 PR issue had brought political uncertainty in Lesotho.

“It needs to be solved way ahead of time, to help fix our political system,” Thloeli said.

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