Lesotho election a two-horse race

Basotho voters braved the chilly weather and headed to the polls to elect a new government in a contest described as a two-horse race between old rivals Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Thomas Thabane in the third general election in the country since 2012.

Former prime minister Thabane told journalists after voting yesterday that whoever rejects the national elections’ outcomes will be going against the objectives of the Southern African Development Community.

The prospect of his return to the position of prime minister after this weekend’s elections has sparked fears in diplomatic circles that his victory could amount to handing over power to the controversial Gupta family, who allegedly funded his election campaign.

Thabane insisted that he would accept any outcome because the Independent Electoral Commission had played its role and set up credible “processes”.

It was therefore up to political party leaders to behave.

“Good behaviour is not negotiable,” he said.

“My expectations will be that the elections will be free, fair and peaceful and that the best man [or] woman will win ...

"I truly believe in the democratic norm, [which means that] if I lose I will hand over to whoever has debated me. If I win I expect him to do the same.”

City Press sources described Thabane’s campaign as the most well-funded among the contenders with a fleet of branded vehicles used to ferry the leader and his campaign team.

It managed to buy advertising space on big billboards along Maseru’s main Kingsway Road, and outshone opponents with branded events, T-shirt giveaways and campaign material including leaflets and manifestos.

"Beacon of hope"

The only other party that came close to matching Thabane is the newly formed Movement for Economic Change, led by the youngest of the four players in the race, Selibe Mochoboroane (39).

“What a lot of Basotho don’t know is that in celebrating a win for Thabane, who has unleashed a lot of resources for the campaign, they will ultimately be celebrating a win for the Guptas.

"They are funding him with his election campaign,” said a senior diplomat.

Thabane had gazetted a notice that the Guptas were entitled to diplomatic passports as his special advisers, which came after he amended legislation in 2014, apparently to accommodate his friends.

However, the passports were revoked and confiscated by the foreign affairs ministry right after Thabane lost the 2015 elections.

It’s understood that part of the plan for the coalition government under Mosisili was to end the Guptas’ hold on Lesotho.

Experts have predicted that another fractious coalition government unlikely to tackle the mountain kingdom’s dire levels of HIV/Aids and unemployment would result from Saturday’s snap election.

“A coalition is the most likely outcome, but it is unlikely to be a successful one,” Charles Fogelman, a specialist on Lesotho politics at the University of Illinois, told AFP.

“Both of the previous coalitions have collapsed under the weight of succession and power battles, and it is hard to imagine future coalitions not doing the same,” he added.

Thabane told the media that he was open to a coalition, saying it was the way to go “because anyone outside will burn that house down”.

He vowed that he wanted to make Lesotho “a beacon of hope” before he retires.

Samonyane Ntsekele, Thabane’s spokesperson, did not respond to questions sent on Friday about campaign funding.

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