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Lesotho: Church Statements
Lesotho: Church Statements
Date distributed (ymd): 981001
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
This posting contains three documents from African church groups concerning
the crisis in Lesotho. Additional comment from South African and regional
press sources about the crisis, many aspects of which remain obscure, can
be found on the Africa News web site (http://www.africanews.org/south/lesotho).
Note: Ongoing internal disputes in Lesotho over the May 1998 election
led, on September 22, to intervention of South African and Botswanan troops
to support the Lesotho government against mutineers. The intervention,
which has come under heavy criticism in South Africa and the region, was
followed by looting which resulted in the virtual destruction of the capital
Maseru and an estimated $750 million in damages. Lesotho government and
opposition representatives are reported to be meeting on October 2, along
with mediators from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, to
discuss conditions for recovery and for withdrawal of the South African
and Botswanan troops.
Lesotho 1998 general elections report
Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern and Southern
P.O. Box H94, Hatfield, Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: 263-4-572979/572958/570311/2; Fax: 263-4-572979
[distributed by EDICESA September 22, 1998]
The Lesotho's general elections were held on 23 May 1998. This was the
second time to hold elections since its return to civilian rule in 1993.
There was no violence that erupted throughout the country. Everything was
conducted in a peaceful manner.
"The Basotho people turned out to vote in significant numbers and
with great patience, this showed that people really want to choose a leader
who they want for the next five years", said Reverend Ishmael Mqathazane,
General Secretary of the Christian Council of Lesotho in an interview with
Hitler Mhomwa, a Documentalist from the Ecumenical Documentation and Information
Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa (EDICESA). He added, "The Basotho
people were praying day and night that the elections be free and fair".
The General Secretary emphasized that Churches should monitor elections
as non partisan observers. This would ensure that they are free and fair.
The Christian Council of Lesotho had organized the ecumenical monitoring
team in conjunction with the different denominations of the Small Kingdom
of 2 million people together with the Fellowship of Councils of Churches
in Eastern and Southern Africa (FOCCESA) represented by its secretariat
EDICESA. Thus significantly shows how the Churches are now actively involved
in participating in the general elections and other political issues of
The history of Lesotho has been characterized by decades of political
instability. The Mountain Kingdom got its independence from Britain in
1966. It was ruled first as a one-party state and then as a military dictatorship.
A coup in 1986 resulted in several years of military rule. Democratic civilian
rule returned to Lesotho in 1993 with the holding of parliamentary elections.
The Basotho Congress Party (BCP) won all the 65 seats.
The 1993 elections were declared free and fair by domestic and international
observers although some political parties alleged cases of bogus voting
and inaccurate registers.
In 1997, the political environment was marked by tension within the
ruling BCP. These differences resulted in the formation of a new political
party. In June 1997, Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle and 41 members of Parliament
formed the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). The remaining BCP Members
of Parliament refused to accept the LCD government as legitimate.
The BCP and extra Parliamentary groups, rallied in protest and called
upon the monarch to dissolve Parliament. Appeals to neighbours in South
Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and the broader international community to
intervene were to no avail. The BCP were declared the official opposition
and refused to take opposition seats in parliament.
There were 12 political parties and 30 independent candidates who had
registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to contest in
the 1998 Lesotho general elections and these were:
Marematlou Freedom Party, M.F.P. Sefate Democratic Union, S.D.U. Basotho
National Party, B.N.P. Basotho Congress Party, B.C.P. Lesotho Congress
for Democracy, L.C.D. National Progressive Party, N.P.P. Popular Front
for Democracy, P.F.D. Kopanang Basotho Party, K.B.P. Lesotho Labour Party/United
Democratic Party Alliance, L.L.P/U.D.P. Alliance, Lesotho Educational Party,
L.E.P. Christian Democratic Party, C.D.P. National Independent Party, N.I.P.
PERIOD BEFORE THE ELECTIONS
Under pressure from local advocacy groups and the international community,
the government of Lesotho introduced and enacted legislation in 1997 to
establish an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). This was fully responsible
for the preparation and all logistics involved in the holding of the elections.
Three of the country's major political parties, the BCP, BNP and the
MFP, on 19 May 1998 sought a High Court order to postpone the elections
to enable the IEC to examine some irregularities in the election registration
process. Although the court conceded there was validity in some of their
complaints, for instance, the voters' roll suggests that eight times as
many people are born on the first of January in Lesotho than on other days
of the year and in some cases 10% of the voter population was dully accredited
by the IEC officials without providing any date of birth.
The Chief Justice Mr. Justice Joseph Kheola ruled that this was not
so serious as to warrant the postponement of the elections and also it
had no powers to overturn a decision taken by King Letsie III calling for
the May 23 elections.
"They will choose for themselves a single leader and once again
they will grow and prosper" Hosea 1:11. This was the situation in
Lesotho on 23 May 1998. Both the old-aged and the youth were choosing a
leader for themselves who would make their country prosper. The voting
started at 7:00 am and ended at 5:00 pm. Most of the polling stations were
properly identified and located.
By 10:00 am, the National Radio of Lesotho had announced that some of
the polling stations in the northern surbubs were through with the voting
process but in some areas, especially in the mountains (rural areas), very
few people had come for voting. The number then increased in the afternoon
when the morning dew had disappeared as it was the cold season.
The old-aged were allowed to vote first or as soon as they arrived.
The voting process especially in the mountains was very slow because most
of the people are not literate so they needed some guidelines although
voter education programmes had been carried out before.
Throughout the day, there were no reports of violence. People had been
voting peacefully. Very few minor problems occurred such as, voters spoiling
their ballot papers and asking for new ones. These were solved by polling
officers easily and peacefully.
Election officials administered the voting process according to the
electoral laws and regulations. Voters were free to ask for any assistance.
The officers assisted in a manner that protected the voter's freedom of
choice and right to secrecy.
Key Election Players involved in the Election
The Independent Electoral Commission 2. Director of Elections 3. Area
Electoral Officer 4. Returning Officers 5. Presiding Officers 6. Polling
Officers 7. Counting Officers 8. Official Witness 9. Domestic Observers
10. Party Representatives and Candidates' Agents 11. International Observers
The elections were monitored by more than 400 domestic observers from
the Christian Council of Lesotho, individual Churches and the NGO's. Among
these, 181 were from the Churches as organized by the Christian Council
of Lesotho. There were also 150 international observers from 15 different
countries including EDICESA, an ecumenical organization representing the
12 National Councils of Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa. Rev. Mqathazane
praised the churches for participating in this programme of active solidarity.
The observers monitored the conduct of elections in 79 constituencies
and visited at least two thirds of the polling stations. All the monitors
were working under the IEC and were answerable to it. Part of their role
was to report any events that were contrary to the electoral law. The monitors
were identified by white aprons and caps with a Lesotho badge and written
It has now become the norm for ecumenical organizations to monitor elections
in different countries. This has been done in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique,
Zambia, Zimbabwe and this time in Lesotho.
Both the domestic and international observers pronounced themselves
satisfied with the vote. The evidence collected by the observers supported
the conclusion that the elections were held in a good manner which made
it acceptable according to international standards. Rafael Pinter, representing
the United Nations Development Programme said that the election was internationally
Observer Delegations and Organizations:
Lesotho Council of NGO's (LCN), Lesotho Federation of Women's Lawyers
(FIDA), Lesotho Catholic Bishops' Conference / Justice and Peace (LCBC),
Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), Lesotho Trade Union Congress (LTUC).
Lesotho Youth Federation (LYFE), Lesotho Young Christian Students (LYCS)
International Observers by Country
Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mozambique,
South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America,
Regional and International organizations
Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern and Southern
Africa (EDICESA) * European Union * Southern Africa Development Community
(SADC) * Organization of African Unity (OAU) * National Democratic Institute
(NDI) * United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) * World Alliance of
Reformed Churches (WARC)
The whole election process was covered by the media organizations that
comprised of the National Radio, Television and Local English Newspapers.
On the radio, there were comments and updates on what was going on in all
the districts throughout the day. The Local Newspapers were not biased
in their reporting.
Lesotho's ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy swept to a general election
victory. Mr. Pakalitha Mosisili, the LCD leader who has been Deputy Prime
Minister was sworn-in as Prime Minister on 29 May. Ntsu Mokhehle who was
the former Prime Minister had already stated that he will not stand for
another term due to his poor health which has been deteriorating for the
past two years.
Out of the 79 contested constituencies, the ruling LCD captured 78 of
the constituencies, nearly all of them with margins of thousands while
the Basotho Congress Party won one seat. Out of the 834,446 voters who
registered to cast their votes, only 557,726 were able to do so. There
were obvious reasons why the LCD could have outperformed initial expectations.
These include; the granting just before elections of a 10% pay rise to
civil servants; the appearance on election day of supervising policemen
in brand-new uniforms; most notably the promise of R850-million to Lesotho's
farmers if the LCD was returned to power.
The opposition parties in the tiny Kingdom were unhappy with the results.
The BNP and the BCP were on the lead saying they were not satisfied with
the results. "We are not accepting the whole results," Selala
Sekhonyana, whose brother Evaristus leads the BNP, told to about 600 supporters
in Maseru. His comments were backed by an official from the BCP, who said
the two parties would explore ways of forming a united opposition to the
The streets of Maseru were fairly quiet after the LCD emerged as the
clear victor, with one or two trucks carrying cheering supporters waving
party flags through the nearly deserted streets. Some of the contesting
political parties were demonstrating the day after the elections saying
that the elections were not free and fair.
The BNP, BCP and the MFP have discovered malpractice in the election
and have filed petitions in the High Court. In a document made available
to media after the elections, the three parties constituted a combined
task force to audit documents relating to the elections.
The parties allege that of the 31 constituencies made available to the
task force, there were very large differences between the physical count
of those who actually voted and those who had been cancelled on the voters
roll. According to the statement of the 31 constituencies examined, the
LCD had captured only 12 not all of them.
The Christian Council of Lesotho and FOCCESA had send election monitors
who issued a statement saying the 1998 Lesotho general elections "were
substantially orderly, peaceful, free and fair."
The CCL later noted that there were some people who had some suspicions
over the whole process of voting. The council then issued a statement that
"these issues should be investigated."
GENERAL REPORT ON ELECTIONS 270 polling stations 94% correctly 4% not
quite correctly 1% OK but some irregularities 0% badly 0% very badly
AVERAGE PRESENCE OF PARTY AGENTS 270 polling stations BCP, LCD, BNP
- 69% One or two members BCP, LCD, BNP - 29% No party - 2% Other situations
AVERAGE TIME SPEND - by observer unit at polling station by time category
270 polling stations 0 - 15 mins - 65% 15 - 30 mins - 26% 30 - 45 mins
- 5% 45 - .... mins - 4%
SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
P O Box 4921, Johannesburg 2000.
Tel: (011) 492 1380
September 22, 1998
SACC CALLS FOR MILITARY WITHDRAWAL FROM LESOTHO
The South African Council of Churches expresses deep dismay and concern
over the South African military intervention in the neighbour state of
Lesotho. Such an act can not contribute towards a peaceful settlement of
the deep divisions within that nation.
The act denies the basic premise upon which our own democratic nation
was founded- the principle of negotiated settlement and peaceful resolution
of differences by the parties concerned without any dominating intrusion
by outside forces.
The act denies the independent statehood of Lesotho and constitutes
an invasion of that nation on the part of South Africa.
The act denies all that has been said by our own political leaders during
recent weeks about this conflict and those in other parts of Africa.
Our own delay in issuing the Langa Commission report to the people of
Lesotho caused the tension in Lesotho to increase. We now take it upon
ourselves to deal with that tension through the use of armed forces. This
is an intolerable situation which calls for the immediate withdrawal of
our forces and an apology to the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
In making this statement we express our deep concern for the lives of
all those affected by the violence and our prayers go out to all those
who suffer as a consequence of the discord and, more especially, the intervention
of the South African military.
South African Council of Churches
September 22nd 1998
distributed by Bernard Spong, 13 Clieveden Ave, Auckland Park, 2092
Tel: +27 11 726 7969; EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Statement 11/98
Pretoria, 25 September 1998
SACBC STATEMENT ON LESOTHO
We are shocked at the tragic loss of life, the wanton destruction of
property and the fleeing of business people from Lesotho as a result of
the intervention of the South African defence force. We are deeply disturbed
that by all accounts the diplomatic solution was not fully pursued in addressing
the political crisis in Lesotho.
PERCEPTION OF UNJUST AGGRESSION
The military intervention by the SADC forces in Lesotho has unleashed
a trail of death, and destruction. While this intervention was ostensibly
to avert a possible coup d'etat, there is no escaping the fact that it
is being seen as unjust aggression against sovereignty of the kingdom of
Lesotho. SADC's ill-advised and ill-prepared military intervention has
deepened the divisions and intensified animosity between the governing
party and the opposition and also between the Basotho and the people of
South Africa. South Africa's participation in this blunder is in stark
contrast to the hospitality offered by Lesotho during the apartheid era.
South Africa made a costly and tragic miscalculation.
We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa, wish to express
our sympathy to the King and to his people. We acknowledge and are grateful
to learn of the establishment of the directorate for the purpose of bringing
about law and order.
Nevertheless we urge SADC to execute an ordered and an immediate withdrawal
of its armed forces and instead to pursue the path of diplomacy by convening
a multi-party summit giving due cognisance to the role of the King. Furthermore
we urge that immediate steps be taken to repair the damage done to relations
between our two nations, and that clarification be given as soon as possible
regarding to compensation to those who have suffered loss as a result of
this SADC initiative.
Issued by: Secretary General
Date: 1998 - 09 - 25
Ref: Fr Buti Tlhagale OMI
KHANYA HOUSE, 140 VISAGIE STREET, PRETORIA.
TEL: (012)323-6458; FAX: (012)326-6218: E-mail: email@example.com
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen
the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S.
role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.