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Lesotho Citizens Distrust Political Institutions, New Poll Finds

  • Peter Clottey

Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.

Lesotho's army Major General Lineo Poopa addresses the media at the Makoanyane Barracks in Maseru, on Sep. 1, 2014.

The people of Lesotho are sharply against military rule or any dictatorship, according to Afrobarometer’s latest poll.

The findings of the independent research group come as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is making efforts to resolve the political disagreement in Lesotho’s coalition government. The dispute led to last month’s alleged attempt to overthrow the administration of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Basotho overwhelmingly support democratic elections and reject military rule and dictatorship in spite of low levels of trust in the country’s political institutions, according to the Afrobarometer study.

“In Lesotho, over 70 percent reject military rule, they reject one person rule but also they reject any form of draconian rule. So, it’s a case of you support democracy at a low level, but you don’t want the same people who are non-democratic to be ruling you,” said Sibusiso Nkomo, Afrobarometer’s Communications Coordinator at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in the Southern African region.

About 1,200 people were interviewed for Afrobarometer’s survey which registered a 95% confidence level with a margin of error of +/- 3%, according to Nkomo.

He said the poll also measured trust in the country’s institutions, including the police, military, religion and political parties, following the disagreement in the coalition government.

“It also goes to trust as well,” said Nkomo. “Religious leaders are trusted at about an 82% level, whereas traditional leaders are about 73%. So it’s a very complex picture to paint…Basotho are actually aware of what is happening in their country and who is doing what and how that is going to affect them.”

Nkomo said Lesotho citizens support democracy despite the country’s lower comparative score among countries in the Southern African region that embrace democracy.

“In Lesotho in 2014, 50% of the people say they support a democratic system whereas in 2012 they actually said they support [democracy] by 55%. But, at the same time they’ve got really high levels of rejection of military rule, one-man rule, and any other form of draconian rule. Their trust in political institutions is also quite low,” said Nkomo.

He said the survey was conducted at a time of mounting political tensions that led Prime Minster Thabane’s decision to suspend parliament. Rivals in the coalition government call the move a power grab to avoid a vote of no confidence.

Nkomo said the findings reveal the country’s challenging democratic history appeared to have had a lasting effect on Basotho response to the polling.

“They’ve had coups, they’ve had a prime minister that runs the country for a long time and not wanting to let go of power…you’ve had the king who was exiled, then you had his son who was made king instead of his father. Then he had to step down, then come back again, after his father’s death. There are all these issues…so that’s the problem in Lesotho at the moment,” said Nkomo.

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