/ 10 October 2022

Maseru jubilant as new RFP party leads Lesotho elections

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The Revolution For Prosperity was leading in 31 out of the 32 constituencies where counting of votes has concluded. (AFP)

“Halala, bophelo, moruwo!”

These were the shouts of jubilation from supporters of the Revolution For Prosperity (RFP) party outside Lesotho’s Manthabiseng National Convention centre over the weekend as election results began to trickle in.

First time gains  

First time entrant in the Lesotho political landscape, the RFP has won 47 constituencies with the Democratic Congress (DC) at only 14 constituencies as of Monday morning. 

The party’s popularity among Basotho became clearer as the Independent Electoral Commission announced the results of the 52 political parties that contested for votes in 79 out of 80 constituencies. 

Launched in March this year, just six months before the 2022 general elections, the RFP is led by businessman Ntsokoane Samuel Matekane, of Mantšonyane in the Thaba-Tseka district. 

The party has promised to focus on food security, agriculture, healthcare expansion, pharmaceutical production and good governance. 

Focus on poverty alleviation 

Speaking to the media outside Thetsane High School in Maseru on Friday, the outgoing prime minister, Moeketsi Majoro, of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, said about 200 years after the nation was established, and 56 years into democracy, Basotho faced many problems.

He said the incoming Lesotho government should address poverty, inequality, unemployment and other issues facing the country.

According to the poverty assessment produced jointly by the World Bank and the

Lesotho Bureau of Statistics in 2019, more than 75% of the population is either

poor or vulnerable to poverty.

An assessment by the World Bank in 2021 found that youth unemployment in Lesotho was among the highest in the world, and three times higher than the average rate observed in other lower-middle-income countries.

Apart from the very high unemployment rate, the World Bank said the other disturbing trend was that more Basotho had given up looking for work.

Majoro told the media that his government could not address all these issues in two years. 

A history of swift changes

He was appointed prime minister by parliament in May 2020 after his predecessor, Thomas Thabane, stepped down after months of pressure.

Thabane was named as a suspect in the murder of his former wife, Lipolelo Thabane, in June 2017, days before he was sworn in as premier.

In July this year, the director of public prosecutions, Hlalefang Motinyane, dropped

charges against Thabane and his current wife, Maesaia, because critical witnesses could not be located.

They have both denied involvement in the killing.

Majoro is not seeking reelection. He refused to disclose which party he voted for. “Would that not be seen as campaigning? My vote should be public but I cannot disclose it at the polling station.” 

He said he would make an announcement about his plans after leaving office.

It is not out of his own free will that he is not seeking to be prime minister for another term. He was defeated by Nkaku Kabi in the election for leader of the governing ABC in January this year.

Although the counting still continues, a political science lecturer at the National University of Lesotho, Tlohang Letsie, told Newsday Lesotho that it was difficult to predict who the winning party might be but the RFP appeared to be leading the race.

He added that based on social media posts, most users had already concluded that RFP will win this election. 

The other contenders

The results of the Afrobarometer survey released in July this year indicated that the

Democratic Congress (DC) led by the deputy prime minister, Mathibeli Mokhothu, was

most likely to win the election.

If voted to power, the DC said it will harness natural resources “for job creation and

wealth generation for Basotho”.

The survey findings indicated that at least 42% of the respondents said they

would vote for the DC.

The institute said the figure fell short of the majority required for the DC to form the

government on its own.

The findings also showed that the ABC was the second most preferred party, with 21% of the respondents saying they would vote for it.

The party has promised to diversify the economy “for enhanced job creation” and investment in agriculture for self-empowerment.

The survey found that the Basotho Action Party could take about 8% of the support the Movement for Economic Change, led by the minister of development planning, Selibe

Mochoboroane, appeared in fourth position.

But the survey was conducted between February and March this year and did not factor in the RFP, which was formed on March 22.   

This story is brought to you by a collaboration between the Mail & Guardian and Newsday Lesotho.