No buses for opposition in Lesotho

2012-05-20 22:53

Maseru - Thousands of people braved Lesotho's early winter cold on Sunday for the final rallies ahead of next weekend's closely fought vote, with the opposition claiming dirty tricks had undercut their turnouts.

In this largely rural and impoverished nation of about two million people, the final rallies in the capital Maseru are the best and sometimes only chance for the public to see the candidates before the May 26 vote.

But the two main opposition parties accused Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of undermining their rallies by booking all the buses in this tiny country and refusing to allow them to hire transport from South Africa.

"I am happy with the turnout but we could have still had a bigger crowd had we not had transport problems," said the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothejoa Metsing.

The LCD isn't used to being on the back foot, having run Lesotho under Mosisili since 1998. A bitter leadership feud between the prime minister and Metsing resulted in Mosisili breaking away to form his own Democratic Congress.

He convinced a majority of parliament to follow him, keeping him in power for now.

But Mosisili is increasingly derided as using government to find cushy jobs for his relatives. Metsing warned of a dictatorial streak, in a US diplomatic cable leaked to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

The main opposition All Basotho Convention spokesperson Lerotholi Pheko also accused Mosisili of making it impossible for his party's followers to make it to the rally as they did not have transport.

Raise minimum wage

"We have several constituencies which could not make it due to transport problems. We had to make do with bakkies and and smaller cars to the rally because we could not import buses," he added.

Mosisili is campaigning on the relative stability Lesotho has enjoyed over the last decade, even though the country still has world's third-highest rate of HIV infection, with one in four adults carrying the virus.

Half of the population lives under the poverty line, and many simply seek work in South Africa.

His two rivals have promised to turn to the country's two main industries, diamond mining and textiles, to help the poor.

ABC leader Tom Thabane said his party would review all mining agreements entered with foreign companies to try to create better deals for Lesotho.

Metsing has promised to raise the minimum wage for textile workers, currently at $108. Unions insist on a $243 basic salary, a demand they pushed in a three-day strike last year that was violently repressed, leaving one person dead.

Read more on:    pakalitha mosisili  |  lesotho  |  southern africa

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