IEC orders PM’S wife to stop donations
…orders PM’S wife to stop ‘offering gifts to villagers’ ahead of poll
The Independent electoral Commission (IEC) has ordered the Prime Minister’s special Projects Office to stop offering gifts to villagers around the country ahead of the 28 February 2015 snap election, arguing this is a violation of the country’s electoral laws.
The demand comes shortly after the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) lodged a complaint with the Commission alleging the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) had breached electoral laws by using state resources to campaign for the parliamentary elections.
The DC, led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, further noted in a letter dated 16 December 2014, that by so doing, the two parties had violated the Electoral Pledge signed by party leaders and other stakeholders on 11 December 2014, committing to a free and fair poll.
In response, the IEC—IN an urgent letter dated 22 December 2014 and addressed to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Pitso Maisa—notes it had come to the attention of the Commission that “the Office of Special Projects of the Prime Minister’s Office (headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, Liabiloe ‘Maisaiah Thabane) is holding some public gatherings around the country. It has also come to the attention of the Commission that during these public gatherings, some gifts and donations are handed out to some members of the community within the relevant areas.”
The letter, which is endorsed by the IEC Chairperson, Mahapela Lehohla, and copied to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, further reads: “I wish to advise your good office that by its very nature, that Office of Special Projects and its situation in the Prime Minister’s Office, has a certain political stature.
“I wish to further advise that upon the commencement of the election period (on 8 December) certain activities which, by their very nature, may be seen to be in contravention of the Electoral Act of 2011, have to be terminated. I therefore, am humbly obliged to request your good offices to direct the Office of Special Projects to cease holding the said public gatherings as continuance thereof borders on the violation of the law.”
The IEC Acting Director of Elections ’Mamatlere Pontšo Matete yesterday confirmed to the Lesotho Times that the Commission had indeed written to the Prime Minister’s Office following a complaint from the DC.
Ms Matete added: “And that issue has since also been put before the Commission’s Tribunal team to work on it.”
Meanwhile, the DC had wanted the IEC and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitation Team in Lesotho to take action against the ABC and Bnp—which formed a coalition government alongside the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in June 2012, but ended the marriage acrimo- niously leading to the early poll— for the “rampant use of state resources and generous donations of food parcels and clothing for political purposes against the Electoral Code of Conduct of 2011 and 2014 Electoral Pledge”.
In his letter to the IEC dated 15 December 2014, DC Secretary General, Ralechate ’Mokose wrote: “Prime Minister and ABC leader, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, went on a political mission to the mountain constituency of Hloahloeng No 63.
He was accompanied by his ‘partner’, Miss Liabiloe Ramoholi, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Litšoane Litšoane, the District Administrator for Mohale’s Hoek, and many public servants from the ministries of Agriculture, Health and Local Government.”
In addition to the eight vehicles in the prime minister’s convoy and three in Miss Ramoholi’s convoy, Mr ’Mokose noted, there were many other government vehicles, “including those with registration numbers Y1384, Y1624, Y4107 and Y4227.
“At this occasion, the following items were distributed to the electorate: A 5 kilogramme packet of rice, one tin of baked beans, 1 kg pocket of sugar, 12.5 kg pocket of maize-meal, and one pocket of candles. In similar fashion, the Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (who is also BNP leader), Honourable Thesele ’Maseribane followed much the same practice in Mount Moorosi No 67 constituency where he distributed various items of clothing to the electorate on the same day.
“Our submission is that the above activities constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct of 2011, specifically Article 4 which states as follows: All those bound by this Code in terms of Section 22, throughout the election period, give effect to the following undertakings and stipulations: (i) To refrain from using a position of power, privilege or influence for political purposes, including; (i) incumbent government power such as state facilities and transport.”
The dc also contended “the above activities contravene the Electoral Pledge signed in front of the SADC Facilitator (South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa) by leaders of political parties and other stakeholders, especially where it says under 19.5: Abstain from offering material inducements to influence party membership, event attendance, voting decisions or candidacy nominations; 19.6 refrain from using social or institutional power for political purposes.
“Our observation is that this rampant use of state resources and generous donations of food parcels and clothing for political purposes is a general trend on the part of the ABC and BNP. It is being used as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is intended to deliberately disrupt the election process by willfully undertaking activities that will attract protest and indignation, while on the other, it is meant to bring unfair political advantage to these two political parties.
“We request the IEC and SADC Facilitation Team to take prompt and decisive action against these two parties and that the IEC will reply to us in seven days to advise us about the steps that are being taken with regard to this matter.
“We also request the IEC to make the necessary pronouncements such that no other party or stakeholder will enter into programmes that can have the effect of derailing the electoral process in any way. In this specific case, the SADC Facilitation Mission has the advantage that the Prime Minister is under the direct guard of the South African police who know, at all times, where he goes and what he does.”
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times has learnt that on 22 December 2014 – the same day the IEC wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office – the SADC Head of Observer Mission in Lesotho, Ambassador Fannie Mfana Phakola, wrote to the commission about the issue.
He noted: “We are in receipt of a copy of a letter from the Democratic Congress (DC), addressed to you and dated 16 December 2014. In the letter, the DC is complaining that the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) have breached the Electoral Code of 2011 and the Electoral Pledge that was signed by leaders of political parties and other stakeholders on 11 December 2014.
“I wish to express hope that the Independent Electoral Commission, as the body charged with the conduct and management of electoral processes in the Kingdom of Lesotho, is addressing the complaint raised by the DC.”
Efforts to get comments from both the ABC and BNP were fruitless until the time of going to print last night.
Liabiloe ‘Maisaiah Thabane (right) gives Fusi Maqhashela a wheelchair and groceries in Mapoteng in October.