Basotho Action Party (BAP) has threatened the Council of State with a lawsuit in its latest bid to step up pressure on the council to take action against the three commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
BAP, led by Professor Nqosa Mahao, first wrote to the Council of State in January this year asking it to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to set up a tribunal to investigate the commissioners’ fitness to hold office.
Acting senior private secretary to the king, Nyolosi Mphale, acknowledged receipt of BAP’s letter on February 2, and said the party’s request was receiving active consideration in consultation with relevant government stakeholders to make sure that proper action and reaction is provided “on the issues raised in your letter”.
On March 21, Lebohang Thotanyana, secretary general of BAP, wrote a follow-up letter to Mphale saying reasonable timelines had lapsed and she should be in a position to provide a firm reaction to the party’s request.
“We take this matter as of national importance and critical to the well-being of democracy and good management of the state affairs. Leaving it hanging will most likely impact the upcoming Local Government Elections negatively,” Thotanyana.
Mphale reiterated that the matter was indeed receiving “serious attention that it deserves” and further vowed that the consultations that the Royal Palace advised BAP about when it acknowledged its first letter were at an advanced stage.
“Very soon you will be notified about the outcome of the consultations,” she said in a response on March 29.
April passed and on May 19, advocate Rasekoai, the legal representative for BAP, wrote a letter of demand to the Royal Palace.
“The cumulative impact of issues raised by the client in the letter dated 13th January 2023 accompanied by this correspondence serves to illustrate that the Independent Electoral Commission of the Kingdom of Lesotho under the leadership of the current commissioners is not adequately meeting its constitutional and/or statutory obligations,” Rasekoai said.
He said the commissioners were not leading “this critical institution” as an efficient electoral management body and for that reason, their competence and/or fitness to hold office should be probed and/or interrogated.
The three IEC commissioners are Mphasa Mokhochane, who is the chairperson, Tšoeu Petlane, and Dr Karabo Mokobocho-Mohlakoana.
“Client has instructed us to cause for this correspondence to be evenly copied to the esteemed office of the Registrar General of Societies to consider some of the issues raised in this correspondence which have a bearing on the proper regulation of voluntary organisations which double-up as political parties.
“The failure to react to the burning issues of grave national importance in this correspondence within 14 days will attract an application for a writ of mandamus against the esteemed institution of Council of State and/or that of Registrar General of Societies,” Rasekoai wrote.
In its January letter, BAP said the IEC seemed to have outsourced its independence and had effectively become a government department under the full direction of the executive.
“This, we find to be a serious dereliction of their constitutional duty and responsibility,” read the letter signed by Thotanyana.
BAP also criticized the IEC’s delimitation of the constituencies’ borders which was challenged in the high court by the Democratic Congress (DC) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC).
“The last delimitation exercise was disastrous with the commission issuing and gazetting a version of the proposed constituencies that had variances close to 40 percent in one constituency.
“The gazettement was done relatively late despite the IEC having a near-correct version well ahead of the elections. The matter ended up in the courts of law where IEC’s incompetence was laid bare.
“It remains unclear to us what agenda the Commission was serving, why it chose to gazette a demarcation proposal that had so many glaring errors, and why the exercise was so late and close to elections,” the letter read.
The call for the three commissioners to vacate office was first made by three activists, Kananelo Boloetse, Motsamai Mokotjo, and Resetselemang Jane.
Boloetse, Mokotjo and Jane on January 3 this year, petitioned the council of state to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to establish a tribunal to investigate their fitness to hold office.