Sadc must ensure free and fair election

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A SADC delegation arrived in Lesotho this week in what the government said was a routine visit ahead of a general election expected in May.

The visit came a few days after United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon described the political situation in Lesotho as “worrying”.

Ban urged Sadc to assess the situation in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and the level of the implementation of the global political agreement in crisis-torn Zimbabwe.

It is his remarks about Lesotho that we find pertinent.

Although we were not privy to what was discussed behind closed doors we would like to believe the issue of the election was top on the Sadc delegation’s agenda.

With an election just two months away it is important that the regional bloc acts as an effective mid-wife in helping deliver a credible election that does not produce a contested result.

This has been given renewed urgency following dramatic political developments in Lesotho during the past two months.

Yesterday, opposition parties said they were filing papers in the High Court challenging last week’s declaration of the Democratic Congress (DC) as the government.

They want the Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili arrested for removing the government through what they said was an “illegal process”.

They also insisted they did not recognise Mosisili as the duly elected Prime Minister of Lesotho.

The opposition argues Motsamai was wrong when she declared the DC the new government because she did not have powers to do so under the constitution.

They say it is only the king who can declare a majority party in parliament as the government.

We can only see trouble ahead of us as a nation. In fact the seeds of post-election conflict have already been sown.

As Basotho we must now apply our minds to generate ideas on how we can forestall post-election conflict after May.

The opposition’s move has only added fuel to what has been a combustible political environment. What happened yesterday could plunge Lesotho into yet another constitutional crisis.

We hope the courts will be able to deal with this matter expeditiously to avert such crisis.

This places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Sadc.

The regional body must help us ditch the tag of “sick child of southern Africa”.

We have developed a knack of self-destructing at every turn.

Our history has been one that has been punctuated by bitter post-election strife since that disastrous 1970 election that saw Chief Leabua Jonathan refusing to accept defeat.

That nightmare only ended two decades later when democracy was finally restored in 1993.

From the moment the opposition planned to pass a no-confidence vote in Mosisili last month we have been slowly drifting towards the precipice.

There is a sense of bitter hostility between opposition parties and the new DC government.

We would have failed in our duty as a newspaper if we do not warn of the dark clouds of political uncertainty that are gathering on the horizon.

This is the reason we are asking Sadc to put in place effective mechanisms to deal with possible post-election violence.

Election observers and monitors from the regional bloc must be on the ground weeks before the actual voting.

But more importantly they must remain on the ground during the crucial post-election phase, a period that has historically proved treacherous for Lesotho.

Sadc must insist that its election guidelines are adhered to, to ensure a free and fair election come May.

The government must level the political playground and allow political parties the platform to campaign.

Unless these guidelines are adhered to we risk a return to the 2007 set up when aggrieved elements amongst us fomented trouble for everybody.

We also risk blowing it all in a repeat of the 1998 madness that saw Maseru being reduced to rubble.

We can ill-afford a repeat of that madness.

Basotho have bigger problems that warrant full, undivided attention from the government if we are to win the fight against poverty, disease and unemployment.

Sadc must help Lesotho stage a smooth, incident-free election.

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