Lesotho to hold early elections – Cyril Ramaphosa

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa paid a courtesy call to King Letsie III ahead of the facilitation talks held at SADC House in Maseru, Lesotho. (Photo: GCIS)

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa paid a courtesy call to King Letsie III ahead of the facilitation talks held at SADC House in Maseru, Lesotho. (Photo: GCIS)

Lesotho’s national general election has been brought forward two years to 2015, South African deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

“His majesty King Letsie the Third will reconvene parliament on the 17th of October 2014,” Ramaphosa told reporters in Maseru.

“The sitting of the parliament will be limited to passing of a budget and to do all other related matters regarding the holding of early elections.

“National general elections will be held towards the end of February 2015 and on a date that will be determined by his majesty the king. In other words, the timeframe has been set.”

Ramaphosa was in the country as part of his Southern African Development Community (SADC) mandate to facilitate talks and find a solution after an attempted coup by the military on August 30.

This resulted in Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fleeing to South Africa, and its parliament being closed.

Ramaphosa said part of the SADC mission’s mandate was to look at the bringing forward of the elections.

“The leaders of the region determined that the holding of earlier elections holds the key to finding a solution to the political challenges and indeed the security challenges that the country faces,” he said.

He said parliament, after reconvening, would be dissolved at the beginning of December this year to prepare for the elections.

He said a “Maseru Facilitation Declaration” would be signed by the country’s leaders to ensure peace and stability.

“We believe it [the declaration] has the capability of taking the country forward.”

Thabane was the first to sign the declaration at the briefing.

The attempted seizure of power has been blamed on “renegade” Lesotho Defence Force commander Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli, who had refused to step down from the military and was accused of a series of attacks on police and political rivals.

Kamoli previously denied that he was hiding after the alleged coup attempt and that he had taken weapons from the Lesotho army’s armoury.

On Tuesday, two policemen in Lesotho were wounded during a shootout between the police and the military.

Ramaphosa, when asked on Thursday about charges being laid against Kamoli, and who was currently in charge of the military, said SADC was looking at the security situation in the country “broadly”.

“We have to be given an opportunity to do so. Pronouncing ourselves on this too soon and too early will not be the best of responses that we can give.”

He called on leaders of the police and the army to “do everything they can in the interests of Lesotho”.

“[They must] desist from having conflict between themselves at the leadership level as well as at member level,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is important that the level of peace between these two arms is maintained so that Lesotho can be restored to normal.”

He said incidents like Tuesday’s shooting would be coming to an end.

Ramaphosa said the upcoming elections would be fair.

“We have reason to believe that it will be free and fair,” he said.

“In the (SADC) region we have held many free and fair elections. A number of members of this community… have been through elections and they by and large have been declared free and fair.”

He said the Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission would act independently, according to its name, during the elections.

The SADC mission would be stationed in Lesotho until after the elections.

He said the mission consisted of a number of “disciplines” such as the military, the police and the diplomatic corps.

“It is a substantial mission. This is how SADC does all these things,” Ramaphosa said.

“When one country hurts, the community of SADC will come to its support and assistance, and that intervention is by no means crafted as to interfere and take over. It is crafted to give support.”



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