March 26, 2007

Protest puts tens of thousands in the streets of Maseru

A stay-away ended this week after visiting Southern African Development Community ministers intervened, but it has revealed widespread popular discontent with the ruling party as thousands took to the streets of the capital during a mass stay-away.
In a statement SA's deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad, who was attending the SADC meeting in Maseru on Thursday, called the problem a "small matter about proportional representation" and said he was confident it would be resolved.
But businesses, offices and public taxis in Lesotho stopped from Monday as workers heeded the call by opposition political parties for a three-day stay-away, less than a month after parliamentary elections. Armed soldiers patrolled the Maseru streets.
The action was called in a bid to force Lesotho's governing Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party to heed a High Court ruling in a case involving a list of names of proportional representation members of parliament from the opposition National Independent Party. Their rejection would mean that they retain a large majority in the parliament.
The LCD under Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili won re-election in February. The new 120-member parliament opened last week. (SouthScan) I a separate development, activists expressed disappointment at the low representation of women in the country's parliament. Just under a quarter of the legislators are women - 28 out of a total of 120. While this is 11 more than in the previous parliament, it still falls "far below" the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) target of 50 percent, says Keiso Matashane, co-ordinator in Lesotho for the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust. This grouping seeks to improve the situation of women through lobbying, and researching various issues related to the law and rights. (IPS, Johannesburg)

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