Lesotho: I've Every Right to Contest the Polls - Shao

ASPIRING legislator, Zhen Yu Shao, says he has every right to contest the upcoming elections because he is a lawful citizen of Lesotho. Such is his patriotism that he claims to have once represented Lesotho as a diplomat in his native China.

He makes the arguments in his High Court papers filed in response to last week's application by a local 'Christian' group to have him barred from contesting the general elections on 7 October.

Dubbed the Christian Advocates and Ambassadors Association, the group teamed up with four others to petition the High Court.

The other four are Molupe Mosito, 'Mamello Phooko, 'Matokelo Seturumane and 'Mamoji Letsapo.

The applicants make seemingly xenophobic arguments that the election of Mr Shao, a naturalised Mosotho of Chinese origin, would "allow foreigners living with us to gain power" thus "weakening our country's sovereignty".

Without any substantial elaboration, they further argue that Mr Shao's election would return the country to the dark days of colonialism, slavery and cannibalism.

They argue that Mr Shao should not be allowed to contest because he "owes allegiance to a foreign country" as he allegedly has no proper knowledge of Sesotho. They argue that allowing him to contest would be in contravention of Section 58 of the constitution which states that a person cannot qualify for election as an MP if he is unable to speak, read and write Sesotho or English "well enough to take an active part in the proceedings of the National Assembly".

Should Mr Shao win, the applicants argue, he would not be able to "express, communicate and represent the will of the people".

Mr Shao recently made headlines with his attempts to contest the Ha-Tšolo constituency seat on a Movement for Economic Change (MEC) ticket. It was said he had won the support of the MEC's constituency committee by funding party programmes in the area.

However, MEC leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, disowned him. In a recent interview with the Lesotho Times, Mr Mochoboroane said "there is no way that a Chinese national can represent the MEC".

This snub prompted Mr Shao to register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as an independent candidate in the upcoming 7 October elections. But the move has not gone down well with the 'Christian' group which has now teamed up with others to challenge his bid to contest.

Mr Shao, the IEC, the National Assembly, the Senate, the Law and Justice Minister, the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, the Registrar of the High Court and the Attorney General are the first to eighth respondents respectively in the application.

In his opposing papers, Mr Shao argues that there is no law which prohibits him from contesting in the upcoming elections. He also argues that the applicants have not shown to the court how they would suffer if he contested.

"The law of Lesotho does not recognise a right of a party to pursue reliefs in the manner as has been couched in these proceedings without illustrating the substantial legal prejudice that they suffer under the Bill of Rights," Mr Shao argues.

"I applied for the citizenship of Lesotho in the year 2006. In the year 2010, I was issued with a certificate of naturalisation, and since then I have been living in this country as a citizen, enjoying all the rights embedded in the constitution and other laws of this country.

"I come from China which did not permit dual citizenship. I was therefore obliged to renounce the citizenship of China in order to acquire that of Lesotho. I later acquired an identity document of Lesotho. I also secured a Lesotho passport. I therefore, strongly dispute any assertion by the applicants that I owe allegiance to a foreign state," Mr Shao states in his court papers.

He further alleges that he was appointed Lesotho's Minister Counsellor in Beijing in 2016. This was during tenure of the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties' coalition. He alleges that he held that position for three years.

"Interestingly, I have served the government of Lesotho on a foreign mission in 2016. I was appointed Minister Counsellor in Beijing for three years. This clearly shows that the state has for a long time regarded me as a citizen of this country entitled to enjoy all rights available to every Mosotho. I aver further that nobody raised any objections against me joining the foreign mission as a delegate of this country. I aver that foreign missions are part of the governance of Lesotho and as such, I have already served in government before."

Mr Shao dismisses the applicants' claims that he is not fluent in English.

"The constitution and the Electoral Act require that I know how to read, write and speak either English or Sesotho. I strongly aver that I am fluent in English and I am able to read and write it perfectly well. The disingenuous argument staged by the applicants to the effect that my lack of knowledge and or fluency in Sesotho language renders me ineligible must be tested against many members of National Assembly who are fluent in Sesotho but who cannot speak English. I aver that the two languages are recognised as official languages of this Kingdom and as a result my knowledge of the other means I am more than competent to participate in all issues of governance in this country.

"I also can speak, read and write a bit of Sesotho and I also can follow very well any communication being made in Sesotho. The applicants suggest that if I am not fluent in Sesotho, I am disqualified. They have lost sight of the fact that one has to be fluent in either Sesotho or English. I find comfort in section 3 of the Constitution which provides as thus: 'The official languages of Lesotho shall be Sesotho and English and, accordingly, no instrument or transaction shall be invalid by reason only that it is expressed or conducted in one of those languages'," Mr Shao argues.

In their bizarre application, the applicants argue that allowing Mr Shao to contest "would be the beginning of foreigners living within us to gain power, the beginning of disaster, slavery and foreigners' encroachment into our territory/Kingdom, the weakening of our country's sovereignty".

"The ultimate effect of which is to subject us and our children to endless slavery, tlala ea bojalikata (abject poverty) and cannibalism towards our own children as the Bible clearly prophesised thus."

They insist that Mr Shao should not be allowed to contest because "we are covetous of our history, integrity, culture, language, and our personal and country's dignity, but most importantly, the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Lesotho".

"We are an independent state, and having attained independence, we cannot voluntary go back to immerse ourselves into the mud and shackles of colonialism. Thus, we are strongly opposed to 1st respondent standing."

The applicants further argue that Mr Shao cannot even speak, read and write Sesotho and English properly.

"This (inability) is shown through his (Shao's) conduct, mode of life and his foreign language not known and/or understood to the applicants and most of Basotho. As a result, he is constitutionally disqualified from standing for the upcoming 2022 general elections.

"The respondent violated the constitution and Lesotho's electoral law by standing for elections by his conduct of leading the Chinese mode of life, his Chinese-Sesotho accent and his inability to write and speak Sesotho properly. Even his mere posture and body language is Chinese, not Sesotho," they state in their strange application.

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