Statement on the Official Launch of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2015 National Assembly Elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho by Honourable Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa and Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), Maseru, 18 February 2015
Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho, Justice Mahapela Lehohla and Electoral Commissioners here present;
Honourable Ms Ellen Molekane, Deputy Minister for State Security of the Republic of South Africa and Deputy Head of the SADC Observation Mission;
Your Excellency, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, SADC Executive Secretary;
Your Excellency, Ambassador Samaria, the Organ Troika Member representing Namibia;
The Head of Mission of the SADC Observer Mission in Lesotho (SOMILES), Mr Fannie Phakola;
Representatives of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho;
Leaders of the Political Parties;
Distinguished Members of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC);
Members of the Diplomatic corps;
Election Observation Missions here present;
Members of Civil Society;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, H.E Jacob G Zuma, the President of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to take this opportunity to welcome you to the launch of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2015 National Assembly Elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Following the proclamation of 28 February 2015 as the date to hold the National Assembly Elections; the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, in accordance with the provisions of SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, invited SADC to observe the National Assembly Elections.
It was against this background that the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Jacob Zuma, constituted the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to observe the National Assembly Elections in the Kingdom of Lesotho; and appointed me as Head of Mission, an assignment which I accepted with great humility.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed with a deep sense of pride that we acknowledge that election observation has become a norm and part and parcel of the democratic process in our Region, SADC. And indeed, the democratic values that underpin our regional organisation.
It is worthwhile to underscore that elections provide a platform for genuine and true participation of the people in the political and governance process, through electing leaders of their choice. Within the SADC family, of which the Kingdom of Lesotho is an integral part, we long recognised the primacy of elections in a democracy
In the case of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the current elections are being held in particular circumstances, since they are a part of a joint effort by the Basotho people and the region as a whole to find a lasting solution that will lead to peace, security and stability in the Kingdom. Therefore, Basotho deserves to be congratulated for having chosen a peaceful route to resolve their political challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is important to emphasize that, the current ongoing dialogue among the Basotho in their quest for peace, security and stability in the country, is fully supported and facilitated by SADC, but at the end, the decision lies in the hands of the people to resolve their political differences peacefully; rebuild and develop their own nation of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
As SADC Member States embraced democratic values and practices, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), has a primary responsibility, as representatives of this Region, to ensure adherence to the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as to relevant African Union and international instruments and best practices; as to establish whether the elections have been conducted in a manner that is peaceful, free and fair, transparent and credible.
In executing this responsibility, SADC is mindful of the fact that the responsibility to hold peaceful, free and fair elections, in fact, lies with the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho for which dissemination of democratic values among all stakeholders is fundamental.
(i) In discharging its mandate, the conduct of SEOM will be guided by the Constitution and the Electoral Laws of the Kingdom of Lesotho and by the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. To that effect, we will observe the adherence to the following principles;
(ii) Full participation of the citizens in the political process;
(iii) Freedom of association;
(iv) Political tolerance;
(v) Regular intervals for elections as provided for by the respective National Constitutions;
(vi) Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the State media;
(vii) Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for;
(viii) Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions;
(ix) Voter education;
(x) Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties proclaimed to have been free and fair by the competent National Electoral Authorities in accordance with the law of the land; and
(xi) Challenge of the election results as provided for in the law of the land.
These principles are our regional benchmarks, and embody the aspirations, norms and democratic values of all our Member States.
In these elections, in order to ensure extensive coverage during the entire electoral process, SEOM will deploy Observers, representing various segments of the society in the Member States in all 10 Districts of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The nature and scope of the election observation will be determined by the following guidelines:
(i) Constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of the citizens;
(ii) Conducive environment for free, fair and peaceful elections;
(iii) Non-discrimination in the voters’ registration;
(iv) Existence of updated and accessible voters roll;
(v) Timeous announcement of the election date;
(vi) Where applicable, funding of political parties must be transparent and based on the agreed threshold in accordance with the laws of the land;
(vii) Polling Stations should be in neutral places;
(viii) Counting of the votes at polling stations;
(ix) Establishment of the mechanism for assisting the planning and deployment of electoral observation missions; and
(x) SADC Election Observation Missions should be deployed at least two weeks before the voting day.
The Mission will continue to observe post- election period in order to determine the:
- Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties as proclaimed by the competent National Electoral Authorities in accordance with the laws of the land.
- Any challenge to the election results to be conducted as provided for in the laws of the land.
Following today’s launch, members of the Organ Troika led by myself supported by the representatives of Namibia, as the outgoing Chair of the Organ, will engage with the leadership of Lesotho, political parties, civil society organisations, the media as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (Lesotho), IEC. The purpose of our interactions will be to listen to all interested parties and stakeholders, to be apprised of the state of preparations ahead of the election and assess the state of readiness.
The Troika will meet with other election observation Missions deployed to share notes on our observations, ahead of the issuance of the SEOM’s preliminary statement on these elections.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As per tradition on election observation, SADC observers will be visible prior to, and on voting day wherever possible, to affirm SADC’s commitment and support to the fellow peoples of the Kingdom of Lesotho in their quest for democracy. As we head to the actual Election Day, we remain mindful of the fact that the onus to hold peaceful, free and fair elections rests with the people of the Mountain Kingdom themselves.
It is thus our sanguine hope that all political parties will, as usual, conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful, free and fair, democratic election, as this country has done previously.
Over the years, SADC Electoral Observation Missions have consistently made a sterling contribution to the consolidation of democracy in the region, through sharing lessons learnt, as well as best practices. We thus have no doubt that even these elections will continue to contribute to the enhancement of democracy in our Region.
We further take this opportunity to extend our warmest wishes to the fellow peoples of the Kingdom of Lesotho as they exercise their birth and inalienable right to vote and choose parties of their choice.
May this election also be an indication of true citizenry participation in the political process; by the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
We further wish to inform you the SADC preliminary statement on the electoral process will be released on 2 March 2015.
Let me take this opportunity to reassure you all of our unwavering commitment and support to the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho as they prepare for these elections, and to wish them a peaceful and successful election.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, H.E Jacob G. Zuma, I declare the SADC Electoral Observation Mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho officially launched.
Khotso, Pula, Nala (Peace, Rain, Prosperity).
Thank you for your attention.
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