MASERU — Two opposition parties have accused ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party of assaulting their supporters in rural areas as tensions rise ahead of an election later this year.
The Basotho National Party (BNP) and the African Development Corporation (ADC) told an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) meeting this week that senior LCD officials were instigating their supporters to intimidate their supporters.
They alleged the incidents took place in Lebakeng in Qacha’s Nek and Hloahloeng in Mohale’s Hoek districts.
BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane told the IEC meeting that prominent members of the ruling party were behind the attack on his party’s members in Hloahloeng.
He said BNP officials had gone to the area to campaign and encourage their members to register for the coming election when they were waylaid and attacked while crossing a gorge.
They were also stripped naked, Maseribane said.
“We are aware that some big names in the ruling party and in government were behind the attacks,” ’Maseribane said.
“We however reported these incidents to the government authorities who are also senior in the LCD although we knew that they could not be of any help.”
Maseribane added: “We can say with certainty that our people were attacked at the instigation of prominent people in the LCD.”
A representative of ADC in the IEC and political parties’ election committee, Khoejane Makhele, said LCD members in Lebakeng constituency threatened him last week.
Makhele said he is now afraid to express his political opinions in Lebakeng for fear of attack by LCD members who openly told him that they would beat him up should they hear him telling the community about any political idea other than of the ruling party.
“These people who are threatening me are well known to me and I know they can be dangerous,” Makhele told IEC commissioners Limakatso Mokhothu, Malefetsane Nkhahle and Faku Likoti.
“They were heavily armed and I had no option but to arm myself too as I went up and down the valleys of Lebakeng talking to the people,” Makhele said.
He added: “I want to formally report this to the IEC and I want proper action to be taken.”
Makhele appealed to Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla who was present at the meeting to talk to LCD members and “teach them about the democratic rights of other parties”.
He said Lehohla, who is the LCD deputy leader, and the party’s general secretary, Mothetjoa Metsing, who was also present at the meeting, should launch civic education on democracy and human rights to educate LCD members in rural areas.
“It is difficult for a person who is not an LCD member to promote his party in the rural areas without risking being hated and persecuted,” he said.
Likoti advised Makhele and ’Maseribane to report the incidents to the police.
He however assured them that the IEC would take proper action when the complaints are formally lodged with the commission.
“It is against our code of conduct to threaten anybody and prevent them from campaigning for their party,” Likoti said.
“Things such as these should be formally reported to the IEC. We will take corrective action once they are reported,” he said.
’Maseribane said he was preparing to submit a written report to the IEC.
Lehohla said it was not the party’s policy to intimidate political opponents.
He said the complainants should report to the police.