Vote-buying cannot be tolerated
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