Residents of Abia village in Makhoakhoeng outside Maseru waiting in a long queue to cast their vote during Lesotho’s National Assembly Election. (Picture: Denvor de Wee/ANA)

The Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson, Justice Mahapela Lehohla, says the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has intervened to ensure that armed Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) personnel patrolling voting stations is recalled.

Speaking to African Independent, Lehohla said it was unusual for the army personnel to be present at voting stations, indicating that in the 2012, 2015 and other previous elections the army has always been confined to the barracks.

According to Sections 93 and 98 of the National Assembly Electoral Act of 2011, only the police are allowed to provide security at voting stations, but according to police spokesperson superintendent Clifford Molefe the police have asked the army for backup security.

However, the electoral legislation stipulates a person should be authorised by the director of elections to be present at voting stations, which has not been the case with the military presence in the ongoing poll.

Speaking to local radio station People’s Choice the IEC director of elections, Letholetseng Ntsike, said security related decisions were vested on a national joint committee for security that comprises the LDF commander, the commissioners of police and correctional services, and the director of the national security services.

However, Lehohla told African Independent that the commission had already taken appropriate measures and consulted with relevant powers to ensure the army personnel is recalled from voting stations.

He said the SADC officials in Lesotho have moved to meet the government on this matter for the situation to be put under control.

Should this presence of LDF members at polling stations continue, Lehohla indicated he feared for a worrying scenario that could aggravate the tense political situation and stir up controversies that could push the country to the brink “especially because these things are done intentionally”.