On Saturday, Lesotho voted in emergency elections designed to solve its political crisis. With results still a few days away, GREG NICOLSON and SIMON ALLISON took the pulse of a rain-soaked Maseru – and a few pictures too.
Maseru on election day was a ghost town. The shops were closed – all of them, even the taverns and the pavement-side chesa nyamas. The streets were deserted. Only in polling stations were ordinary Basotho to be found, and even here they did not turn up in the kind of numbers officials had expected. Those that did, however, were cautiously optimistic about their country’s future, whatever the analysts may say. The DJ on Radio Ultimate just about summed up the mood: “There’s a new train coming, and it’s bringing peace!” So far, that optimism has not been misplaced, although the real test will come when the election results are announced on Wednesday or Thursday.
Dikgetsi Monokoana, Pre-primary teacher
“Lesotho was nervous about the discipline of Parliament members concerning the political whatever. I would think these elections would solve the problem. According to Basotho culture, rain is a blessing, so hopefully this can change [it rained almost all election day in Maseru]. When we choose prefects at school, we looks for good manners, discipline, who is passionate, who is active, who has critical thinking. Our leaders have these skills.”
Teboho Kolobe, Independent Candidate for Maseru Ward 31
“I feel aggrieved because we as independent candidates are not getting any funding. We are told to fend for ourselves. We don’t get any TV coverage or radio opportunities. It’s unfair competition…This election won’t be the solution, except if the big parties get together for a two-thirds majority and can change the Constitution. We need to put the army and the police under his majesty.”
Tsele Motoboli, Maseru
“Elections are always the solution. We’re hoping for change. Politicians are basically liars, but we have to confront these lies. We have to make them keep their promises. What happens in Lesotho is people from overseas come and benefit from our resources. What I see is people getting rich while we on the ground get nothing.”
Motlatse Makhasane, handyman
“It’s not really a good day, but we’ve been waiting for it. We’re going to have peace after this. But there are no jobs at all, we are hustling, and I think it’s going to be the same after this. This is how they rule.”
Matsela Margaret Foko-Foko, Party agent for Lesotho Workers’ Party
“I feel muddled because I didn’t expect this kind of election. They came at such short notice. I don’t think we will have one party who can rule, there will be a coalition. This is dangerous. When the police and army came out [last year], I didn’t feel safe, I had to go away. People are greedy when it comes to money. People don’t know how to share, particularly in the government. But after this election I hope it’s going to be boring in Lesotho.”
Lebo Lehloenga, optometrist
“I think the elections will show where we stand. Most important is that this should bring peace and stability, and solve the economic problems that result [from instability]. Right now there’s no jobs, no nothing, so the economy can’t rise.” DM
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