Facebook and political participation in Lesotho
By Tsebo Mats’asa
In Lesotho, Facebook has turned out to be a vibrant platform for political participation. Individual members of the public post their political views while on the other hand fanatics of political parties create groups that discuss political issues ranging from, events, official and unofficial decisions to statements by the government and leaders of political parties. There are no daily newspapers in Lesotho and broadcasting sector is unethically run. As a result Facebook has become a daily source of information whose content, most of the time, is received with mixed feelings and varying interpretations among ordinary citizens, political fanatics and their leaders. Lesotho is a country where official information is so limited that citizens depend on roamers and gossip. This makes social media, especially Facebook that this article is about, to be one of the platforms where information is shared daily. While Facebook role as information sharing platform may be acknowledged as a positive, a challenge with information on Facebook is poor credibility and meager authenticity as active sources on the platform are either anonymous or use pseudo names. Despite this challenge, it is however, undisputable that political information posted on Facebook in Lesotho, most of the time turns out to be true and it puts a lot pressure on both the government and political leaders.This article therefore, reveals positive and negative roles that Facebook plays in political participation in Lesotho. It identifies political leaders in Lesotho who are active in Facebook. It also looks at political parties Facebook pages and other Facebook groups that are perceived to be vibrant in the country’s topical issues. The article further assesses individual politicians and political parties use of Facebook to facilitate political conversation on various political issues. It picks up some political issues that are posted, test credibility of the issues by identifying and assessing sources and pages where the issues were posted, and also reflects on reaction of the public and political leaders in Lesotho to the information published on Facebook.
Key words: Lesotho, Social media, Facebook, Political, Participation.
In the year 2012, national assembly elections in Lesotho brought about the first coalition government in history. One of the main features of the government was leaking of information to social media, especially Facebook. The government could not handle Facebook’s vibrancy on political issues until the country went for brought forward national assembly elections in February 2015 instead of 2017 as it was supposed to be in terms of the electoral legislation of Lesotho. The February 2015 national assembly elections brought about another coalition government and daily, Facebook proves to be a platform for conversation on both official and unofficial information by the government and politicians, both in ruling political parties and opposition in Lesotho.
This article was developed from October to December 2015 and it focuses on;
- Facebook usage by individual subscribers to participate in political discussions on a range of issues published daily,
- Activism of individual political leaders and political parties on Facebook.
- Facebook groups that lead active political discussions and issues they discuss,
On the other hand, the article explores opportunities that Facebook brings in enhancing political participation without risking victimization particularly in those political issues that exposes political leaders’ weaknesses in terms of decisions they make especially in the politically destabilized environment that Lesotho has been facing since 2012 to date.
Review Facebook usage in Lesotho to find out the following;
- How active are politicians and political parties on Facebook?
- How active are Facebook groups in facilitating political discussions?
How active are politicians and political parties on Facebook in Lesotho?
The table below shows thirty three (33) politicians who are on Facebook with one or more accounts. Some of them are not in parliament, but are active politicians who contested the recent national assembly elections. For differing types of Facebook accounts I looked at the following;
- Number of friends
- Number of fans
- Number of members
- Updates Frequency (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly or more than six month to a year)
Table 1: Politicians with Facebook accounts in Lesotho
|Politician||No. of FB accounts||No. Friends||No. Likes||No. Members||Updates Frequency and brief notes|
|1. ‘Molotsi Monyamane||1||4,957||Weekly|
|2. Temeki Ts’olo||1||28||Monthly|
|3. Lebohang Totanyana||1||5,000||Daily|
|4. Thuso Litjobo||1||4,993||Weekly|
|5. Refiloe Litjobo||3||4,907||397||Weekly,
One of his accounts is private
|6. Monyane Moleleki||3||14,308
|118||More that six months to a year|
|7. Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili||8||4,981
|Daily on one account while others are updated quarterly or more than six months to a year|
|8. S’khulumi Ntsoaole||2||2,636||7,176||Daily|
|9. Samonyane Ntsekele||1||4,999||Weekly|
|10. Letlotlo Molahlehi||1||444||Weekly|
|11. Khotso Letsatsi||4||4,991
|Weekly on one account. Other accounts are updated between monthly and quarterly|
|12. Joshua Setipe||2||722||3,639||Monthly|
|13. Mokherane MCT Tsatsanyane||2||5,000||1,798||Weekly|
|14. Keketso Taung Rants’o||1||2,301||Weekly|
|15. Mophato Monyake||1||1,484||Monthly|
|16. Thomas Motsoahae Thabane||7||2,399||11, 852
|17. Thesele Maseribane||1||5,000||More than a quarter to a year|
|18. Joang Molapo||2||4,992||236||Weekly|
|19. Ponts’o Sekatle||2||470||Quarterly updated and one account is private|
|20. Ts’eliso Mokhosi||3||12
|Quarterly updated and one account is private|
|21. Ntlhoi Motsamai||1||135||Quarterly|
|22. Mpeo Moiloa||1||84||Quarterly|
|23. Kabelo Mafura||1||37||Quarterly|
|24. Tlohang Sekhamane||2||537
|25. Ralechate Mokose||1||134||Quarterly|
|26. Selibe Mochoboroane||3||4,982
|27. Liteboho Kompi||2||747||298||Monthly|
|28. Thabang Kholumo||1||120||Quarterly|
|29. Machesetsa Mofomobe||7||4,955
|30. Moeketsi Alexis Hanyane||2||344
|31. Molise Ts’ele||1||4,861||Daily|
|32. Ts’eliso Lesenya||1||1939||Daily|
|33. Sello Maphalla||1||734||Daily|
On the table above it is observed that none of the Facebook accounts established have a “blue tick mark”. As a result those politicians with more than one Facebook accounts, it is not clear as to which account is “authentic”.
However, according to the table above, Dr. Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili who is also the Prime Minister of Lesotho and the leader of Democratic Congress(DC), is the Lesotho politician with eight (8) Facebook accounts. He is followed by a tie of seven (7) accounts by Thomas Motsoahae Thabane who is the opposition leader in the Lesotho parliament and also the leader of All Basotho Convention (ABC), and Machesetsa Mofomobe who is not in parliament, but the spokes person of the Basotho National Party (BNP), one of the opposition political parties in the country’s parliament. Other politicians have a minimum of one (1) to a maximum of four(4) accounts.
In terms of number of friends that politicians make on Facebook, Lebohang Thotanyana of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) who is also the Minister of Mining, Mokherane MCT Tsatsanyane who is a parliamentarian under the ABC political party, Thesele Maseribane, a leader of the BNP and former Minister of Gender, Sports and Recreation, and Khotso Letsatsi who is the current Minister of Communications, Science and Technology come first with 5,000 friends each. They are followed by nine (9) other politicians, including Mosisili and Thabane with between 4,907 and 4,999 friends. Temeki Ts’olo, a parliamentarian under ABC who is also the former Minister of Trade and Industry is the lowest with 28 friends.
With regard to number of fans who follow our politicians on Facebook, Monyane Moleleki who is the Minister of Police and also DC political party’s deputy leader has the highest number of 14,346 likes followed by Thabane with 12,212 while in one of his accounts he still has a high of 10,576 likes. S’khulumi Ntsoaole who is ABC political party member and former Minister of Trade and Industry comes third with 7,176 likes. Ts’eliso Mokhosi who is a Minister of Defense and a Secretary General of LDC though with two (2) Facebook fan pages, scored lowest with 95 likes.
Table 2 : Political Parties with Facebook accounts
|Political Party||No. of Facebook accounts||No. Friends||No. of Likes||No. of members|
|1. All Basotho Convention||7||126||2,440
|2. Democratic Congress||4||2,240
|3. Basotho National Party||2||661
|4. Basotho Democratic National Party||1||14
|5. Basotho Congress Party||1||21
|6. National Progressive Party||1||2|
|7. Lesotho Peoples Congress||4||787||9
|8. National Independent Party||1||66|
|9. Popular Front for Democracy||1||6|
|10. Marematlou Freedom Party||2||35||125|
|11. Lesotho Workers Party||1||1|
|12. Basotho Batho Democratic Party||1||11|
|13. Basotho Democratic National Party||1||14|
Like it has been observed on table one, on table two Facebook accounts of the political parties captured do not have a “blue tick mark”. As a result in terms of authenticity it is not clear whether accounts founds are official pages of the political parties in Lesotho.
The table above places ABC on the first position with seven (7) Facebook accounts. DC and LCD come second with a tie of four (4) Facebook accounts. On third position are BNP and Marema-tlou Freedom Party (MFP) with two (2) accounts each.
In terms of friends that political parties make on Facebook, LCD has a high of 787 friends followed by ABC with 126 friends. Other political parties accounts registered zero friends.
With regard to fans following ABC with three fan pages comes first with ‘likes’ ranging between 1432 and 2440. BNP and Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) with two fan pages each come second with friendship following ranging from 39 and 661, to 14 and 658 fans. Other political parties fan pages have attracted as little as 1 to 66 fans.
Looking at Facebook groups’ membership ABC with three (3) accounts, comes first with members ranging between 1475 and 6318. On second place is DC with four (4) groups, has membership ranging between 124 to 2240 members. Other political parties Facebook groups have a membership of as little as eight (8) to 125 members.
How active are Facebook groups in facilitating political discussions on Lesotho?
Table 3: Facebook groups that post political issues as at end of October, 2015
|Name||Membership||Public / Closed / Community / Interest|
|1. COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2015, 16 OR 17||17, 719||Closed|
|2. COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30||14, 065||Closed|
|3. COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2015,2017 TO 2020||4,065||Closed|
|4. COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTION 2015, 16 or 18||158||Closed|
|5. PHUMAPHI PASSEVIL (SADC) COMMISSION OF INQUIRY…LIVE||11,014||Public|
|6. PAKALITHA MOSISILI FANS ALL OVER LESOTHO & RSA||6,420||Closed|
|7. Behind Thomas Thabane, Thesele Maseribane and Keketso Rantso our Leaders||4,446||Closed|
|8. Talla via Puseletso nd Thhomas Thabane, Bohle ba baratang||1,180||Closed|
|9. VOTE FOR CONFIDENCE TO DR TOM THABANE||4,045||Closed|
|10. VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE to Prime Minister Mosisili||870||Public|
|11. TS’ENOLO FM RADIO 104.6||3,555||Public|
|12. TS’ENOLO FM RADIO 104.6||16,995||Closed|
|13. Harvest fm 98.9MHZ (Tsa mabatooa)||15,146||Closed|
|14. Harvest fm 98.9 Mhz (Rise ‘n Shine||13,619||Public|
|15. Harvest fm 98.9 MHZ (Tsa mabatooa)||18,150||Closed|
|16. HARVEST FM||4,225||Secret|
|17. HARVEST FM||15,707||Closed|
|18. MOAFRIKA FM RADIO DAILY NEWS||9,861||Closed|
|19. MOAFRIKA FM RADIO DAILY NEWS||16,061||Closed|
|20. Mafeke-Feke (moafrika)||5,090||Closed|
As it has been shown on table 3 above, there are four Facebook groups with the names COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30, COUNT DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2015, 16 or 17, COUNT DOWN TO ELECTION 2015, 16 OR 18 and COUNT DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2015,2017 TO 2020. In no doubt two of the groups have big membership and that may also evidenced how influential they are in posting political issues in Lesotho especially the capital city Maseru where there is higher number of internet subscribers. Comparative analysis of the COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS groups reveals they compete on issues to point of plagiarizing content and it is not easy to say who is the authentic author on some issues.
On the 27th October, 2015 the post below was posted by both Jackson Jonkomane, at 18 hours on COUNT-DOWN ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30 and Makhaola Qalo on COUNT-DOWN ELECTIONS 2015, 16 or 17:
“Tse hlahang ka Tsoelike li supa hore sechaba sa lebatooa leo se lla ka mokhethoa oa sona hore o ba nehelletse ka masole a ba khakhatha bosiu le mots’eare.
Khoba e ngoe ke ea hore joale le mokhethoa, ha a sat la lebatooeng ho tla utloa litaba tsa lebatooa. Joooooooh!”
Loosely translated: “Information from Tsoelike points out that the electorate of that constituency is complaining that their parliamentarian has sent soldiers to assault them night and day.
Another behavior of the parliamentarian is that he does no longer visit the constituency to get information. Joooooooh!”
At 22hours 30 minutes there were 12 likes and16 comments on Jackson Jonkomane version of the above captured post on the COUNT-DOWN 2020, 25 or 30 group. At the same time Makhoala Qalo’s post on the COUNT-DOWN 2015, 16 or 17 group received 104 likes and 51 comments.
With regard to Jonkomane’s post of the sixteen (16) comments made only three (3) disagreed with the post, while of the fifty-one (51) comments on Qalo’s post, only two disagreed with the post.
One of the comments was an update on the post by Makhaola Qalo where he/she reported that the army was alleged to have killed one person at Sehlaba-thebe area at a village of Ha Chabana. It further alleged that some of the victims were issuers of babeise (animal registration papers) and one of them who was a resident of Mosenekeng village was reported to have fled to the neighboring town of Matatiele in the Republic of South Africa.
Tsoelike constituency’s parliamentarian is the Lesotho Prime Minister Dr. Pakalitha Mosisili. Much as on the post above he was not identified by name, for the people of Lesotho, especially political fanatics, it was clear that the post was about him and it sought to expose a challenge in his constituency. Therefore, if the comments on both posts were anything to go by, the COUNT-DOWN ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30 groups is dominated by members of congress political ideology while majority of the COUNT-DOWN ELECTIONS 2015, 16 or 17 group membership comprised of national political ideology.
On the same groups there is a subscriber bearing the name of Makhaola Qalo. On the COUNT-DOWN ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30 group this subscriber seems to be criticizing the national political ideology and striving to get subscribers belief on congress political ideology. On the 27th October, 2015 at 12 hours Makhaola Qalo made the following post;
“CHIEF MASERIBANE O HEMA MOLLO KE KHALEFO
Likhaiki li supa ha morena e moholo oa Manyatseng, Ladybrand ebile e le moetapele oa BNP monghali Maseribane a siile phutheho ka lehare maobane thapama Grandberry guesthouse ke khalefo. Ba neng ba motliselitse litaba ba ile ba tlameha ke ho kopa mochaufa o mongo a hae Upper Thamae mane hore a mpe a moletsetse a mo kokobetse habane ba se ba ts’oha hore o tla inkela molao matsohong. Sena se tsoaloa ke ha ane a utloa hore eo a mosiileng e le molisa oa mansi le thepa ea bona monghali Joang Molapo a se a hana ha romelloa chelate ea rent ea BNP Center mane. Monghali Molapo o tlalehoa a se a sa thaba ka tsela eo Chief a sebelisang chelate ea mokha ka teng. Ntlha ea pele eo a llang ka eona ke hore chelate joale e bonahala e reka le bo ausi ba bangata haholo, e leng se sa amoheleheng ho hang. Che kannete monghali Molapo ona le ntlha mona. TO BE CONTINUED.”
Loosely translated: “CHIEF MASERIBANE BREATHES FIRE WITH ANGER
Tools point out that the big chief of Manyantseng, Ladybrand who is also a leader of BNP mr. Maseribane did leave a meeting yesterday afternoon at Grandberry guest house with anger. Those who a had brought him information were forced to request his concubine at Upper Thamae to phone and to calm him down because feared he would take law into his hands. This resulted from information that the one he had left to oversee the nationals and their property mr. Joang Molapo refused to sent money generated from rent of the BNP Center. Mr. Molapo is reported to be not happy anymore because of the way the Chief is using the political party’s funds. The first point that Mr. Molapo is not happy about is that the money seems to be buying too many girls, which is not acceptable at all. Indeed mr. Molapo has a point here. TO BE CONTINUED”
This post received 16 likes and 91 comments. 78 comments disagreed with the post, while 48 describe the author as a “fake” and not the real Makhoala Qalo on the COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2015, 16 or 17 group.
After a serious introspection last night, having taken all your advices and suggestions, cognizance of the original intend of the group, I have come to a sober conclusion that I will go ahead with the closure of the group. I am doing this reluctantly but in life there comes a time where one have to make a decision unpopular as it may appear, as long as it is in the interest of all of us.
I am aware that this move will not go well with most of us. I have requests from people I love and respect not close the group but looking at this holistically, my decision to close it supersedes all other reasons not to close it.
Maobanyana mona ho bile le post e hobosang Ntate Letsatsi ka ntho tse personal ha hona setho le se seng se ileng sa nthusa ho tsoela ka mathe ketso eo, maoba mona le hangata ho bile le setho se beileng a deframed image ea ntate Metsing moo ekang ke noha le teng ha hona setho le seseng seileng sa nthusa ho khalemela setho sa ketso tseo. Ke maobane feela ha ke bona eka setho se seng se roaka ntate Mosisisli ke leka ho se khalema…ho fapana le ho nhlalosetsa context ea post eo ke ha litho li nhlasela le teng few members came to my rescue . Ha eso e ba sepheo saka hore ebe group ena e bonahala eka ke platform ea ho hobosa ba mmuso o litulong.
In light of the above,yes it’s final I am closing the group . I respect all of you and wish you well in the groups you will decide to join.
Received 66 likes and 235 comments.
On the 25th October, 2015 a subscriber named Lebenya Lebakeng posted this on COUNT-DOWN TO ELECTIONS 2020, 25 or 30 group;
Opposition leader Tom Thabane was seen in Bloem town with LCS officers. There had been a leak of info. Former PM wants Scott escape from prison. He strongly urged those officers that he will pay a huge amount of money. M9m if they could do that. The same amount could stil be theirs if they can as well kill Scott. This man seem to hate Metsing who is the second bigger partner in 2nd coalition in the mountanous country. Moleleki who is the deputy of the famous Pakalitha Mosisili is another person whom Thabane hate so much. Will Thabane escape a strong criticizm that he is facing due to his connections with Scott? Brigadier Mokaloba of LDF mentioned former PM to have failed an attempt of killing a Free State girl for purposes of mutilations…
The post received 10 likes and 38 comments in three days. Out of the captured comments, only six (6) disagreed with the comment. Some comments were angry to a point of using vulgar language. It was clear from the comments that most of the people who commented were the supporters of national political ideology.
This article will be continued within two weeks. In the meantime, for queries please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org