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DC wants IEC dissolved

Business

Mohloai Mpesi

The main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) has vowed to go to court to have the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) dissolved.

DC leader, former deputy prime minister Mathibeli Mokhothu, recently held a press conference in which he launched a scathing attack on the commission accusing it of incompetence.

“We are going to petition the court to declare IEC as incompetent. It should be dismantled and a new commission appointed,” Mokhothu said.

The three IEC commissioners have faced widespread calls for their resignation following the commission’s admission that it made a mistake when allocating Proportional Representation (PR) seats following the national assembly elections which were held on October 7, last year.

The three IEC commissioners are Mphasa Mokhochane, who is the chairperson, TÅ¡oeu Petlane, and Dr Karabo Mokobocho-Mohlakoana.

Opposition parties and at least one party in the ruling coalition have been the IEC’s strongest critics and have used the commission’s admission as a weapon.

The Alliance of Democrats (AD) spokesperson, Thuso Litjobo, in March this year also accused IEC of being incompetent at the expense of the country.

Litjobo warned that “an incompetent IEC” was a risk factor for electoral violence. “IEC will burn this country,” he said.

He was reacting to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns’ decision to give IEC the go-ahead to correct the mistake it did when allocating PR seats.

The IEC had allocated three PR seats to the AD and 11 to the Democratic Congress (DC) but later found that it had done a mistake. It said it was supposed to have allocated only two PR seats to AD and eight to DC.

On October 22, last year, it filed an urgent application in the High Court in its constitutional jurisdiction for an order to review, correct, and set aside as irregular the allocation of PR seats in so far as that allocation gave AD three PR seats and DC 11 seats.

It wanted the High Court to grant it leave to amend the allocation of PR seats allocated to DC from 11 to eight seats and those allocated to AD from three to two.

It wanted the four seats expropriated from DC and AD to be allocated to four political parties namely the Basotho National Party (BNP), Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), and the United for Change (UFC).

The High Court ruled that in its constitutional capacity, it did not have the authority to decide the case and struck it off the roll.

The matter was then brought before the Court of Disputed Returns which yesterday granted IEC leave to amend the allocation.

Litjobo told this publication after the judgment was delivered that the IEC’s mistake had the potential to plunge the country into electoral violence.

Mokhothu this week also emphasized that the court ruling was sufficient to conclude that IEC was incompetent.

“IEC went to court after the elections last year for self-review, and the case was judged in their favour. With these mistakes that IEC made, we made a decision as DC together with other political parties that we are going to drag IEC to court,” Mokhothu said.

“Before the end of this week, we would have filed court papers in the court,” he added and further noted that DC was working with other opposition parties.

In January, 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 the commissioners’ fitness to hold office.

The constitution allows for the Council of State to advise the King to establish a tribunal to investigate the commissioners’ fitness to hold office.

“…we humbly request that the Council of State should represent to His Majesty King III that the question of removing the three Commissioners of IEC has to be investigated,” Boloetse, Mokotjo, and Jane said.

The King’s acting senior private secretary, Nyolosi Mphale, responded to the trio’s letter on January 17, this year.

“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,” Mphale said.

The Basotho Action Party (BAP), led by Professor Nqosa Mahao, also wrote to the Council of State asking it to advise the King to set up a tribunal to investigate the commissioners’ fitness to hold office.

 â€œWe 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, in January.

The following month, in February, BNP, BPP, LPC, and UFC also wrote to the Council of State requesting it to “urgently advise the King to appoint a tribunal to investigate IEC Commissioners’ fitness to hold office”.

“We are aware that young concerned Basotho, Kananelo Boloetse, Motsamai Mokotjo, and Resetselemang Jane wrote a letter on 3rd January 2023 requesting that the Council of State should represent to His Majesty King III that the question of removing the three Commissioners of IEC has to be investigated and that he should appoint a tribunal that will enquire into this matter and report on the facts thereof to him and also recommend to him whether the Commissioners should be removed,” the four parties said in a letter dated February 21.

“We fully support their request for a tribunal,” they added.

Last month, advocate Mohaneng Rasekoai, the legal representative for BAP, wrote a letter of demand to the Royal Palace threatening to apply for a writ of mandamus against “the esteemed institution of Council of State” if it does advise the King to establish a tribunal.

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