In Lesotho, the richest man in the country leads the legislative elections

The surprise candidate, the millionaire Sam Matekane, 64, who made his fortune in the diamond mines, obtains the largest number of seats in the Lesotho Parliament without reaching an absolute majority, the electoral commission announced on Monday, October 10. .

Contrary to all pundits’ predictions, his movement, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), created just six months before Friday’s election, won 56 seats out of 120, according to the final results. The other two parties that have dominated the political landscape so far, the Democratic Congress (DC) and the All Basotho Convention (ABC), won 29 and 8 seats respectively.

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Mr. Matekane, considered the richest man in this small landlocked country on South African territory, should become prime minister. However, he will have to form a coalition to govern the constitutional monarchy, marked by strong political instability. “All these successive governments, we have supported them” financially, the day before the elections, this man with a stocky physique, short hair and a thin mustache confided to AFP: “But we realized that we had to take matters into our own hands. »

Lesotho, one of the poorest countries on the planet, “it is sinking: we businessmen must save it”said the candidate. He proposes relaunching the economy and overcoming public debt, without dwelling on details or method.

From donkeys to diamonds

Starting from scratch when he started raising donkeys at the age of 22, the former shepherd, seventh of fourteen children, grew up in a family of peasants in the mountains. He enjoys motorcycle racing, conversational banter, and displays uninhibited wealth, though he refuses to give away the amount of his fortune. Heading a myriad of companies brought together under the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC), he runs a company that operates the Letseng mine, where the world’s fifth largest diamond (910 carats) was discovered in 2018. He gained popularity building schools, a stadium or even a theater. He funds scholarships and sponsors the national soccer federation. During the Covid-19 pandemic he participated in the purchase of vaccines.

In the streets, many demanded changes and better living conditions. The population, largely rural and more than 30% of whom live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank, is stunned by the endemic unemployment of 22.5%. “He will have to work hard to satisfy the people who have trusted him”says political scientist Tlohang Letsie of the National University of Lesotho. “His reputation and people’s anger towards other parties helped him win votes”he told AFP.

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Some 1.5 million voters were called to vote on Friday for some fifty parties. The day after the elections, the businessman’s supporters had gathered in the capital, Maseru, when the first counts placed him in the lead. “I come from the mountains, up there we have no food, no water, nothing. The RFP will change all that.”said Mamamello Shoaepane, 40, crying with joy. Singing and dancing in the street, the small euphoric crowd, dressed in white and green -the colors of the festival-, chanted: “Prosperity is life!” »

The constitutional monarchy has been governed since 2012 by coalition governments, destabilized by frequent changes of sides and divisions within the parties. The former British protectorate has also seen a succession of coups and forced exiles of political leaders since its independence in 1966.

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The world with AFP

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