Election already behind schedule
ELSEWHERE in this edition, Human Rights, Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Haae Phoofolo, dropped a bombshell after he told the Senate yesterday that government is yet to secure funding for next year’s general election.
This revelation makes for very sad reading, especially given that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also revealed it is facing myriad challenges regarding procurement, structural hierarchy, financial and time constraints, as well as fears of failing to deliver the highly-anticipated February 2015 poll.
They are also fears that upon Parliament being dissolved in December, procurement for election-related material is going to be hampered because suppliers would have closed for the Christmas holidays.
This state of affairs is not helped by the disjointed manner in which IEC operates, with allegations the commission’s hierarchy structure is opaque, resulting in insubordination and duplication of duties.
In a recent interview with this newspaper, IEC Acting Director of Elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, said they had asked South African Deputy President and facilitator of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration, Cyril Ramaphosa, to give them 10 months to prepare for the poll.
Unfortunately for the commision, they only have this month of November before the election period starts in December.
As if all this is not disconcerting enough, Minister of Finance, Leketekete Ketso, has also said his department is yet to receive any request for funding or the election budget by anyone, including the IEC.
If that is the case, we can only wonder if the 3 November earmarked for the commencement of voter-registration has started without a drop of funding from the fiscus. If the IEC has already failed this litmus test, it will give credence to those who will question the credibility of the upcoming election. It goes without saying that voter registration is one of the most costly, time-consuming and complex aspects of the electoral processes. It often accounts for a considerable portion of the budget, staff time and resources of an election management authority. If conducted well, voter registration confers legitimacy to the electoral process. It is no wonder that the election is perceived as illegitimate should the registration system be flawed.
Estimates for the election budget, which is just two months away, are placed at M300 million. If our Members of Parliament (MPS) have their way, government will also have to fork out the balance of the M500 000 interest-free loans legislators still owe one of the local commercial banks.
This is by no means the MPS’ fault as they qualified for the loans, which were guaranteed by government, on taking oath of office in June 2012, and were supposed repay the money over their five-year term of office. However, since the term of the current government was unceremoniously cut short, the already bleeding fiscus will bear the brunt.
What becomes clear in even a cursory analysis of this scenario is that government is ill-equipped and, frankly, uninterested in the election. Unless they can wave a magic wand which will suddenly avail all the elements needed for the holding of the election in February 2015, we are either headed for a disputed outcome, or the date will have to be postponed.
Whichever way, Basotho did not sign up for this early election which is as disruptive as it is expensive. What they signed up for is for this nation’s leaders to be seized with the urgent and onerous task of extricating this nation from the jaws of poverty and deprivation.
It’s more likely than not that this February 2015 election is unlikely to bring about the lasting peace and stability Basotho so much deserve and yearn for as the stage is already being set for a contested outcome. However, since that is what our leaders, in conjunction with the southern African region, have decided for this nation, government should now take seriously the processes leading up to the election and raise alarm bells if it is ill-equipped for the task.
This nation’s elected representatives owe it to their impoverished electorate to act in the latter’s best interests.