There is mounting pressure for the three commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to step down or for the council of state to take action.
The calls for the commissioner to vacate office have increased since three activists, Kananelo Boloetse, Motsamai Mokotjo, and Resetselemang Jane petitioned the council of state to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to establish a tribunal to investigate their fitness to hold office.
The leaders of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP), Machesetsa Mofomobe and Tefo Mapesela, respectively, have agreed with Boloetse, Mokotjo, and Jane.
This week, the Basotho Action Party (BAP), led by Professor Nqosa Mahao announced that it had also written a letter to the council of state asking it to advise the King to set up a tribunal to investigate the commissioners’ fitness to hold office.
The three IEC commissioners are Mphasa Mokhochane, who is the chairperson, Tšoeu Petlane, and Dr Karabo Mokobocho-Mohlakoana.
“We have observed over time the commissioners’ inability to handle their responsibilities with due diligence and sensitivity required from incumbents of such a high office,” read the BAP letter signed by the party’s secretary general, Lebohang Thotanyane.
The letter is addressed to the King’s senior private secretary and was delivered at the Royal Palace on Tuesday this week.
It explains that the inability of the IEC to organise by-elections as is required by the constitution in five constituencies and numerous local councils whereby people from five constituencies and several local councils were denied the constitutional right to participate in the running of the affairs of the country because the IEC neglected to hold the by-elections proved incompetence of the commissioners.
“Whilst the IEC made the excuse that the government of Lesotho failed to provide the required funding, this is neither here nor there as IEC is an independent body that ought to have taken all necessary measures including but not limited to seeking legal redress against the government to protect its mandate and democratic right of citizens.
“IEC seems to have outsourced its independence and has 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.
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.
It also indicated that the delimitation exercise was concluded a few days before the date of the announcement of elections day.
“As we all know, this is one exercise that ought to happen and be concluded well ahead of the electoral period.
“The impact of the act has been immense and affected the political parties’ ability to adjust to the new demarcation as well the smooth running of the elections hence affecting the integrity of the democratic project as a whole.
“Enhancing and protecting the integrity of the democratic process is the primary mandate of the IEC and undertaking acts that seek to undermine it is a serious offence on the part of the commission,” the letter added.
BAP also criticised IEC for allegedly failing to release the voter list on time and failing to allocate proportional representation (PR) seats properly.
The letter read: “The IEC misguided itself when calculating the PR seats. This exercise the IEC chose to do this alone without the involvement of political parties as is practice. They then got calculations wrong and went on to lodge a case against themselves seeking a review of their own decision.”
The party said this was the last straw that proved that indeed the commissioners were outright incompetent, and did not have proper controls within the secretariat and quality control measures.
It said this had led to the nation losing confidence in the ability of the IEC hence eroding its credibility.
“Based on the above, we believe there is a strong prima facie case to be answered by the Commissioners both in their individual capacities and as the IEC Commission collectively.
“We now request your good office to present our letter before the council of state with a specific request that a tribunal be set to investigate and recommend on the competency of the current IEC commissioners and their fitness to continue to hold the office of commissioners of the IEC.
“As the secretary of the Council, we would like to request that you proceed to brief His Majesty as the Chairman of the Council about BAP’s position and ensure that our request reaches the full Council for discussion and decision,” the letter concluded,” it said.
On Tuesday, the King’s acting senior private secretary, Nyolosi Mphale, responded to Boloetse, Mokotjo, and Jane’s letter.
“We wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 3rd January 2023 addressed to the Senior Private Secretary to His Majesty. In your letter you request that the Council of State should advise His Majesty to authorize the appointment of a tribunal to investigate the fitness of the current Commissioners of the IEC to hold office,” Mphale said.
“Please be advised that your letter has been communicated to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. That is the Office you could have addressed your concern to as it is the office mandated to deal with such matters,” she added.