The Director of Elections at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Mpaiphele Maqutu, has accused Minister of Local Government, Lebona Lephema, of attempting to sabotage the institution’s plans to acquire a new headquarters.
Maqutu recently told Newsday that negotiations with the owner of the building, Homestead Holdings PTY LTD, were well underway when Lephema unexpectedly visited the owners.
The unexpected visit, according to Maqutu caused confusion and hindered the ongoing discussions, leading him (Maqutu) to assert that Lephema had attempted to sabotage the deal.
“We were taken aback when the Local Government minister visited the owners, even though we were already deep into discussions with them; he simply attempted to sabotage [the deal]; he thinks he’s a ‘super minister’,” explained Maqutu.
“Fortunately, Minister of Law, Richard Ramoeletsi, intervened by questioning Lephema’s actions.”
Maqutu expressed relief at this intervention, remarking that it highlighted the inappropriate nature of Lephema’s interference.
Likewise, Maqutu revealed that the IEC had managed to secure M50 million towards the payment for the building located at Maseru West. However, he emphasised the necessity of adhering to the Land Act of 2010, which stipulates the involvement of three valuers before finalising such a purchase.
Section 58 (2)(a) of the Act mandates that “the value of the property should be certified by an odd number of valuers, one of whom must be the government valuer, considering both the present and replacement value”.
Despite the IEC’s progress, concerns were raised about the potential consequences of delays caused by Lephema’s actions. If the deal is not promptly concluded, funds could be returned to the Consolidated Fund by March 31, as warned by Maqutu.
The current headquarters of the Commission, the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) Park, is owned by Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader and Prime Minister Sam Matekane.
Maqutu revealed that relocating to the new building would save the IEC M300,000 in rental fees per month, as they have been occupying the MGC Park since 2014.
Criticism has been directed at the IEC for occupying a property linked to a politician, with some likening it to “sleeping at one of the competitor’s houses”.
Yearn for Economic Sustainability (YES) leader, Molefi Ntšonyana echoed these sentiments and questioned Lephema’s motives in interfering with the deal.
“What is his interest in the deal, when the IEC is set to save a lot of taxpayers’ money? What does he want from that building [owned by Homestead Holdings PTY LTD]?” queried Ntšonyana.
When approached for comment, Lephema remained elusive, deflecting the inquiry by suggesting that the Law Minister should address Maqutu’s concerns. However, he assured this reporter that he would respond before the publication of the story.
He had not responded at the time of going to print.
The allegations made by Maqutu have sparked concerns about political interference in the operations of the IEC and the potential impact on its ability to carry out its mandate effectively.