IEC sus­pen­sion angers party lead­ers

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

The In­de­pen­dent elec­toral Com­mis­sion (Iec)’s decision to sus­pend Act­ing Di­rec­tor of elec­tions, Mphasa Mokhochane, over van­dalised and miss­ing elec­toral equip­ment has an­gered some party lead­ers who have ques­tioned the tim­ing of the dis­ci­plinary mea­sure.

IEC Chair­per­son Ma­hapela Le­hohla sent Mr Mokhochane home on 20 Novem­ber pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his con­duct re­gard­ing 21 Mo­bile Reg­is­tra­tion Units (MRU) which were van­dalised and com­po­nents such as lap­tops stolen, last month.

Be­fore the in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion, Mr Mokhochane was first served with a let­ter dated 18 Novem­ber and signed by Jus­tice Lehloha.

The let­ter, ti­tled, “Fail­ure to in­form the Com­mis­sion about the miss­ing com­put­ers”, reads: “On 23 and 28 Oc­to­ber 2014 re­spec­tively, you were in­formed by the IT Manag- er about the miss­ing com­put­ers at the IEC Ware­house.

“De­spite your knowl­edge of the loss of such im­por­tant equip­ment, you con­cealed this in­for­ma­tion from the Com­mis­sion un­til 11 Novem­ber 2014.

“Please show cause by end of business to­mor­row, 19 Novem­ber 2014, why you can­not be sus­pended from your work pend­ing a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing against you and fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions”.

Mr Mokhochane on Mon­day this week told the Le­sotho Times that after re­ceiv­ing the let­ter, he re­sponded as re­quested and was sur­prised to still be slapped with the sus­pen­sion.

“When I re­ceived the in­for­ma­tion that the com­put­ers were miss­ing, there were no de­tails as to how many could not be ac­counted for or how this could have hap­pened.

“So I had to in­ves­ti­gate the is­sue first as there were no signs of a break-in, be­fore I in­formed the Com­mis­sion about,” Mr Mokhochane said.

“I could not rush to the Com­mis­sion with­out any an­swers like a small boy. I had to find out what had tran­spired and give the Com­mis­sion an­swers hence my decision to probe the case first.”

Yet de­spite the re­sponse, Mr Mokhochane was still served with a sus­pen­sion let­ter on 20 Novem­ber.

“While we ap­pre­ci­ate the lengthy ex­pla­na­tion you have given, we are sorry it did not ad­dress our con­cern that you failed to in­form the Com­mis­sion about the miss­ing com­put­ers as soon as you knew about it, thus mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for the Com­mis­sion to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion on the mat­ter. This could have given the thieves time to con­ceal or dis­pose of th­ese com­put­ers, thus frus­trat­ing the ends of jus­tice,” wrote Jus­tice Lehloha.

The for­mer Chief Jus­tice in­di­cated in the let­ter the Com­mis­sion had de­cided to sus­pend Mr Mokhochane with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

“You will con­tinue get­ting your full salary but will han­dover the keys of the of­fice and the car to the chair­per­son; you will han­dover all IEC prop­erty in your pos­ses­sion to the chair­per­son, and th­ese will in­clude, among oth­ers, the cell-phone, lap­top, etc,” Jus­tice Lehloha’s let­ter fur­ther in­structed.

how­ever, the three-mem­ber Com­mis­sion led by Jus­tice Lehloha, and also com­prises Ad­vo­cate Masebe Pholo and Dr Makase Nyapisi, came un­der fire from po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers who called them for an emer­gency meet­ing on Tues­day af­ter­noon at IEC head­quar­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress (LPC) leader, Mo­lahlehi Let­lotlo, who is also chair­per­son of the Po­lit­i­cal Party Lead­ers’ Fo­rum, the meet­ing was so heated it had to be post­poned in­def­i­nitely “be­cause we could not agree on any­thing”.

“Our meet­ing has not been con­cluded; we had to post­pone it in­def­i­nitely as we had a lot to dis­cuss with the Com­mis­sion­ers and chair­per­son, but could not agree on any­thing.

“We wanted to know why the Com­mis­sion­ers went ahead and sus­pended Mokhochane even after we had agreed with them not to sus­pend or dis­miss any IEC of­fi­cials with­out our knowl­edge dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mr Let­lotlo said.

“We also in­formed the Com­mis­sion that we, as po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers, want to have a Com­mit­tee to mon­i­tor the IEC on a day-to-day ba­sis, to en­sure we don’t have such sur­prises.

“We want the Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee to be in place and also be part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mokhochane’s case to en­sure we have a healthy re­la­tion­ship with the IEC.”

Ba­sotho Batho Demo­cratic Party leader, Jere­mane Ra­math­e­bane, who also at­tended Tues­day’s meet­ing, con­demned the sus­pen­sion, which he said could de­rail next Fe­bru­ary’s snap elec­tion which had to be brought for­ward by two years after the col­lapse of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment — com­pris­ing Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) led by Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­th­etjoa Mets­ing and Sports Min­is­ter Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane re­spec­tively — could not last its five-year term after the premier was ac­cused by his deputy of not con­sult­ing his fel­low prin­ci­pals when mak­ing key de­ci­sions.

how­ever, the feud­ing coali­tion gov­ern­ment part­ners and op­po­si­tion only agreed to the early elec­tion fol­low­ing me­di­a­tion by South African Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mr Ramaphosa had been ap­pointed Fa­cil­i­ta­tor in the Le­sotho cri­sis by the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) and ac­cord­ing to Mr Ra­math­e­bane, he might also be asked to me­di­ate in Mr Mokhochane’s case.

“It’s out­ra­geous for the IEC to sus­pend the Act­ing Di­rec­tor of elec­tions at this point in time, and to make it worse, the com­mis­sion­ers could not con­vinc­ingly re­spond to any of the ques­tions asked by the po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers dur­ing Tues­day’s meet­ing.

“We didn’t agree on any­thing in that meet­ing; it was very heated hence it had to be post­poned.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Ra­math­e­bane, should the stale­mate be­tween the Com­mis­sion­ers and party lead­ers con­tinue, an in­de­pen­dent ar­bi­tra­tor might be called in.

“We might re­quest the Christian Coun­cil of Le­sotho to in­ter­vene or even Mr Ramaphosa.

“We don’t seem to be hav­ing very good meet­ings with the IEC, which is why I am say­ing we might even­tu­ally re­sort to a me­di­a­tor.”

Mean­while, Com­mis­sioner Nyapisi on Mon­day told the Le­sotho Times Mr Mokhochane’s sus­pen­sion only sought to en­sure good gov­er­nance ahead of the Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tion.

“The Act­ing Di­rec­tor of elec­tions has been put un­der sus­pen­sion pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the miss­ing equip­ment. We had no choice. We had to do it; we found it im­por­tant to do so. It’s a decision made to show that we are com­mit­ted to good gov­er­nance and ac­count­abil­ity as the IEC.

“We sus­pended him be­cause he failed to pro­vide cer­tain in­for­ma­tion that he needed to give us timeously,” said Mr Nyapisi.

“I would want to em­pha­sise that the sus­pen­sion was not done to vic­timise any­body but en­sure com­pli­ance with good gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples and en­sure a free and fair elec­tion come Fe­bru­ary 2015.

“We are do­ing our work with­out any bias. He has not been fired; he has been put aside tem­po­rar­ily while in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue. he is still en­joy­ing his re­mu­ner­a­tion and other ben­e­fits.”

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