Vote-buy­ing can­not be tol­er­ated

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

THE Na­tional As­sem­bly Elec­toral Act, 2011, sec­tion 163(2) pro­vides “a per­son com­mits an of­fence of bribery if — (a) a per­son seeks or re­ceives a ben­e­fit, per­son­ally or for an­other per­son, in or­der to in­flu­ence the per­son’s elec­tions con­duct; (b) a per­son of­fers, prom­ises or gives any ben­e­fit to any per­son in or­der to in­flu­ence the per­son’s elec­tion con­duct;

This piece of leg­is­la­tion is in­tended to dis­cour­age vote-buy­ing and if con­victed, a per­son is li­able to fine of M1 000 or to im­pris­on­ment for a term of 12 months, or both.

This shows the se­ri­ous light the leg­is­la­ture takes vote-buy­ing and bribery for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons I will enun­ci­ate be­low.

Ac­cord­ing to the Le­sotho Times, 19 Fe­bru­ary edi­tion, po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) can­di­date for Koro-koro con­stituency Tšoanelo Ra­makeoana for pos­si­ble vote-buy­ing and bribery af­ter his cam­paign team was found with a truck full of maize-meal at the week­end in the con­stituency and then gave con­tra­dic­tory state­ments about the con­sign­ment.

While po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still re­port­edly go­ing-on, what is dis­turb­ing is that when the com­mu­nity coun­cil­lor and her rel­a­tive were asked about their con­duct in re­gard to the des­tiny and ori­gin of the 391 bags of ex­pired maize-meal al­legedly to be do­nated to un­sus­pect­ing res­i­dents for their sup­port in the up­com­ing elec­tions.

First, when asked where they got the maize-meal from, they said it had been given to them by a Chi­nese busi­ness­man who owns a shop in Masianokeng, but the po­lice later found this to be un­true.

On be­ing told that the Chi­nese had de­nied the claim, the coun­cilor said the maize­meal had been taken from a dump­site at Ha Tšosane.

As if that was not enough, the coun­cilor, on a live ra­dio pro­gramme, said the ex­pired con­sign­ment was do­nated by a well-known re­tai­lor in town, who how­ever, upon be­ing asked in the same talk show, ad­mit­ted the maize­meal had been handed-over to Maseru City Coun­cil (MCC) for dis­posal at the dump­site as it had passed its sell-by date.

Af­ter be­ing asked in­tensely, the coun­cil­lor con­ceded that this con­tro­ver­sial con­sign­ment, which was de­liv­ered dur­ing the dead of the night, had in­deed ex­pired and was in­tended for a lo­cal pig-rear­ing project.

Strangely, how­ever, she said that the nearly 400 bags were in­tended for only one pig as the other seven had died due to hunger. It then begs the ques­tion of why there was so much pre­var­i­ca­tion.

I do not, for the life of me, in­tend to cast as­per­sions on the cred­i­bil­ity of this coun­cilor, but what is dis­turb­ing is the many con­flict­ing ex­pla­na­tions she prof­fered about the con­sign­ment.

In­deed, I urge the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate this episode thor­oughly and get to the bot­tom of the is­sue so that the coun­cil­lor’s name may be cleared or if she is found to have breached the elec­toral law then sanc­tions must en­sue. For now, at least, I have to as­sume her in­no­cent un­til proven guilty by a com­pe­tent author­ity.

How­ever, the MCC, which owns the truck that con­veyed the maize-meal de­nied both in the press and the talk show that it ever do­nated the maize meal to the coun­cil­lor.

Nei­ther did the well-known re­tailer ad­mit to do­nat­ing the con­demned maize-meal to any­body ex­cept to take it to the dump­site for dis­posal.

This un­for­tu­nate sce­nario high­lights a mul­ti­plic­ity of pos­si­ble mis­con­duct and prob­lems that need to be ironed-out and up­rooted.

It is even more dis­turb­ing and dis­con­cert­ing when th­ese al­le­ga­tions of elec­toral mal­prac­tices come from very se­nior politi­cians of one of the largest po­lit­i­cal par­ties that are go­ing to con­test the snap gen­eral elec­tions in a few days’ time and po­ten­tially be­come gov­ern­ment.

It is also un­for­tu­nate to read that the LCD can­di­date for this con­stituency is re­ported as say­ing the po­lice, the author­ity vested with in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­leged elec­toral mal­prac­tices among oth­ers, is push­ing a po­lit­i­cal agenda and is politi­cized.

Here is a se­nior politi­cian, cast­ing se­ri­ous as­per­sions on the con­duct of the po­lice. This, on the eve of a hotly-con­tested gen­eral elec- tion is dis­con­cert­ing.

This is moreso be­cause the po­lice are one of the in­sti­tu­tions of state charged with as­sist­ing in the con­duct of a free, fair and cred­i­ble elec­tion. Th­ese al­le­ga­tions se­ri­ously un­der­mine the in­de­pen­dence of the po­lice as an arm of the law.

The LCD is one of the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in this king­dom that might pos­si­bly be in gov­ern­ment come early March. Now, if one of its se­nior politi­cians pub­licly and ve­he­mently at­tacks the cred­i­bil­ity of this in­sti­tu­tion in­stead of pro­tect­ing it, then this is a sad day for our democ­racy.

The lead­er­ship of the LCD needs to reinin the said can­di­date be­fore he stokes even more fires that will con­sume the en­tire po­lice ser­vice and erode public con­fi­dence in this in­sti­tu­tion.

If th­ese al­le­ga­tions are true that the LCD can­di­date is buy­ing votes, one won­ders what might be hap­pen­ing na­tion­ally though not re­ported. The LCD, as one of the ma­jor role play­ers in our po­lit­i­cal land­scape and a po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment, should be a cham­pion of democ­racy and fair­ness.

Such con­duct, if proved to be true, would be in com­plete dis­re­gard of our elec­toral pro­to­cols and pledges as well as the code of con­duct that must be up­held at all times.

It also shows the low cal­i­bre of some of our politi­cians who are now vy­ing for seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly. This dis­plays dis­re­spect for the law and ethics.

Vote-buy­ing un­der­mines the in­tel­li­gence of the elec­tors and their judg­ment. It gives the im­pres­sion of elec­tors who are im­pres­sion­able. It is down­right dis­grace­ful that needs to be nipped in the bud as it is a can­cer that will slowly gnaw away at our col­lec­tive moral fi­bre as a na­tion.

It is a de­lib­er­ate ploy to un­der­mine our democ­racy, the very type of gov­ern­ment we have all th­ese years been striv­ing to achieve and pro­tect. In­deed many have lost life and limb striv­ing for this democ­racy. We must cher­ish it.

It also high­lights the in­abil­ity to sell one’s own party, vi­sion, man­i­festo and poli­cies. In a bid to gar­ner votes, some re­sort to un­der­hand tac­tics.

Peo­ple who prac­tice this vile act un­der­mine our demo­cratic ideals and prin­ci­ples which are un­der­pinned by a level play­ing field and fair­ness.

Crit­i­cally, if th­ese maize-meal bags that had long passed their sell-by date were in­tended to be dis­trib­uted for hu­man con­sump­tion, then the health of the un­sus­pect­ing Koro-koro com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing that of young chil­dren and the el­derly who are the most vul­ner­a­ble, would have been je­or­padised.

I am men­tion­ing this be­cause, in some of the ex­pla­na­tions re­gard­ing the con­sign­ment of the maize-meal, the coun­cilor prof­fers the ex­pla­na­tion that it was in­tended to feed the swine at the pig-rear­ing project in the area.

This ex­pla­na­tion, how­ever, de­fies logic be­cause, out of the eight pigs in the afore­men­tioned project, only one had sur­vived the star­va­tion at the time the con­sign­ment ar­rived in the dead of the night.

Your guess is as good as mine as to how long the re­main­ing pig would have taken to fin­ish the nearly 400 mealie bags. It is also strange that a re­tailer en­lists the as­sis­tance of the MCC to con­vey the nearly 400 mealie bags that have long passed their sell-by date and there­fore un­suit­able for hu­man con­sump­tion, to a dump­site and in­stead of pro­tect­ing her com­mu­nity, re­trieves or di­verts the con­sign­ment in the dead of the night to her con­stituency.

It bog­gles the mind about the tim­ing and whoand what ac­tu­ally the con­sign­ment was in­tended for. If the con­sign­ment was in­tended for hu­man con­sump­tion, the health con­se­quences for the en­tire vil­lages in the con­stituency would be too ghastly to con­tem­plate.

Fur­ther, vote-buy­ing and bribery, as stip­u­lated in the Elec­toral Act, 2011, sec­tion 173 (2), puts those who do not have re­sources at a dis­ad­van­tage, as against those with abun­dant re­sources.

The prac­tice there­fore is skewed in favour of the party and can­di­date that has more re­sources. This prac­tice does not be­long to this cen­tury and is the anti-the­sis of mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion.

It has to be ac­tively dis­cour­aged and nipped in the bud be­fore it erodes our col­lec­tive con­science and moral fi­bre as a na­tion. The au­thor­i­ties need to take a very dim view of this al­leged bribery and vote-buy­ing.

Some of THE BAGS of IWISA MAIZE meal Con­fis­cated By po­lice From Koro-koro Com­mu­nity Coun­cil­lor ‘MAEKET­SANG molotsi

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