Parties fight for el­derly vot­ers

Lesotho Times - - News - Lim­pho Sello

ALL Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) leader Thomas Tha­bane has stepped up ef­forts to win over el­derly vot­ers ahead of the 3 June 2017 par­lia­men­tary poll by promis­ing to in­crease old age pen­sions from M580 to M800 if elected into gov­ern­ment.

El­derly vot­ers are an important bloc in Le­sotho’s elec­tions be­cause they are more likely to go to the polls than their younger coun­ter­parts.

Ba­sotho go to the polls on 3 June 2017 after Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s sev­en­party coalition gov­ern­ment was top­pled in a par­lia­men­tary no-con­fi­dence vote en­gi­neered by a four party opposition coalition on 1 March 2017.

With political parties in ex­cess of 25 vy­ing for the hearts and minds of Ba­sotho ahead of the wa­ter­shed elec­tion, el­derly vot­ers are a site of con­tes­ta­tion for parties across the political divide.

Dr Mo­sisili has also zoned in on el­derly vot­ers, say­ing he was ex­plor­ing ways of im­prov­ing the wel­fare of se­nior ci­ti­zens in­clud­ing in­creas­ing their monthly pen­sions.

The Demo­cratic Congress leader also promised to issue el­derly peo­ple cards that would ex­empt them from pay­ing when board­ing pub­lic trans­port.

Dr Mo­sisili said trans­port oper­a­tors would be re­im­bursed after making claims from the gov­ern­ment us­ing the cards.

In keep­ing with the con­certed woo­ing of el­derly vot­ers by politi­cians ahead of the elec­tion, Dr Tha­bane promised to in­crease old age pen­sions from M580 to M800 dur­ing a rally held in Quthing ear­lier this week.

The rally was at­tended by a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of el­derly peo­ple, with one of the tents erected for the event packed with se­nior ci­ti­zens from con­stituen­cies in Quthing.

Dur­ing his address, Dr Tha­bane in­quired from the el­derly peo­ple about their needs and ex­pec­ta­tions from the next gov­ern­ment. Among the is­sues they raised was their old age pen­sions which they said were in­ade- quate in meet­ing their very ba­sic needs.

The se­nior ci­ti­zens ex­plained that the M20 in­crease of the pen­sions to M580 by the gov­ern­ment last year was “sim­i­lar to do­ing noth­ing” given the high cost of liv­ing.

Dr Tha­bane, whose tri­par­tite coalition gov­ern­ment in­creased the old age pen­sions by M100 to M500 be­fore col­laps­ing in 2014, said he would raise it again to M800 if voted into power.

The ABC leader, who turns 78 later this month, said he em­pathised with the se­nior ci­ti­zens’ plight since some of them were his age mates, while others were younger or older.

“If you elect me into gov­ern­ment, I will in­crease that money to M800,” Dr Tha­bane said.

“I will in­struct the min­is­ter in charge to work hard to en­sure that you earn a de­cent pension. If the min­is­ter re­fuses to do that I will fire him or her.”

El­derly peo­ple, he said, de­served to be treated with respect by politi­cians and the gov­ern­ment.

“You should not al­low any politi­cian to treat you as sec­ond class ci­ti­zens,” the for­mer premier stated.

“Some politi­cians are in the habit of hu­mil­i­at­ing the el­derly, say­ing their legs are worn out due to old age. I fail to un­der­stand why they would say such hurt­ful words.

“I am al­ways amazed by the way the el­derly cheer for a per­son who hu­mil­i­ates you.”

He urged the gath­er­ing to be res­o­lute in cast­ing their votes on elec­tion day and not be dis­cour­aged by long lines.

“Your vote counts, so make sure you make it to the polling sta­tions on the elec­tion day. Be patient enough to wait in long lines un­til your time comes to vote.

“If you have to travel a long dis­tance to the polling sta­tions, bring a lunch­box so you have some­thing to eat while wait­ing to vote.”

Dr Tha­bane also urged the sup­port­ers to ab­stain from drink­ing al­co­hol on elec­tion day.

“To you men, I urge you to avoid drink­ing be­fore cast­ing your vote. After vot­ing, you can drink all you want. But re­mem­ber to go home when you are drunk.”

He also ap­pealed to the par­lia­men­tary can­di­dates to work for the peo­ple if elected into the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane.

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