Hlalele ac­cuses IEC of ‘snoop­ing’ on PM’S of­fice

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

NEWLY-AP­POINTED Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary for Cabi­net Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Motha­bathe Hlalele, has ac­cused the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) of “snoop­ing” on the pro­grammes be­ing run by the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice.

In an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times this week, Mr Hlalele said he was “per­turbed” by the man­ner the IEC has been ad­dress­ing com­plaints lev­elled against the Spe­cial Projects depart­ment in the pre­mier’s of­fice “by dis­grun­tled politi­cians”.

The IEC re­cently or­dered the Spe­cial Projects depart­ment in Dr Tha­bane’s of­fice, headed by his wife, Li­a­biloe ‘Mai­sa­iah Tha­bane, to stop of­fer­ing gifts to vil­lagers around the coun­try ahead of the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tion.

The or­der came shortly af­ter the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Congress (DC) lodged a com­plaint with the com­mis­sion, in a let­ter dated 16 De­cem­ber 2014, al­leg­ing that Dr Tha­bane’s All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) and its coali­tion part­ner, the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP), had breached elec­toral laws by us­ing state re­sources for cam­paign­ing.

The DC ar­gued the al­leged vote buy­ing also vi­o­lated the Elec­toral Pledge signed by party lead­ers and other stake­hold­ers on 11 De­cem­ber 2014, com­mit­ting to a free and fair poll.

Mr Hlalele said he was also shocked to learn that the IEC “had the au­dac­ity” to sum­mon an of­fi­cer work­ing un­der his ambit in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice to ap­pear be­fore an IEC Tri­bunal with­out con­sult­ing his of­fice as a prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary for Cabi­net Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“They sum­moned the Press Sec­re­tary, Ntate Thabo Thakalekoala, to ap­pear be­fore the IEC on 19 Jan­uary over al­leged elec­toral mis­con­duct dur­ing one of the Spe­cial Projects Of­fice’s ac­tiv­i­ties in the Hloahlo­eng con­stitu- ency,” Mr Hlalele said.

“What is sur­pris­ing is that we have been is­su­ing food parcels to Ba­sotho even be­fore it was an­nounced we were go­ing for elec­tions. But to­day there are at­tempts to stop the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice from per­form­ing its func­tions ef­fec­tively. “They claim that we are buy­ing votes when in ac­tual fact we are pro­vid­ing much-needed food aid to the needy.”

Mr Hlalele said he is in charge of the Spe­cial Projects Of­fice as it re­ports to the Cabi­net Ad­min­is­tra­tion depart­ment, adding that the IEC should only com­mu­ni­cate with him about com­plaints lev­elled against the of­fice and not sum­mon his sub­or­di­nates to the com­mis­sion.

He said the Food Man­age­ment Unit, Spe­cial Projects Of­fice and the Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Unit would con­tinue to dis­burse food parcels and as­sist the el­derly, poor and the marginalised, adding that they would not be stopped to cater for the peo­ple’s needs “just be­cause of an elec­tion”.

Mr Hlalele added that the depart­ment was es­tab­lished to al­le­vi­ate the plight of the im­pov­er­ished, the el­derly, dis­abled, marginalised, or­phans and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren whilst the Min­istry of So­cial Devel­op­ment would work on long-term as­sis­tance pro­grammes.

He said it was re­alised that the de­part­ments un­der the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice were well suited for the task as the So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­istry was still short staffed and un­der­funded as it was a new min­istry.

Mr Hlalele said the bar­rage of crit­i­cisms of the Spe­cial Projects depart­ment gave the im­pres­sion it was a new of­fice when the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion also had a sim­i­lar depart­ment un­der the Of­fice of the First Lady.

“This Spe­cial Projects Of­fice is an of­fice we run un­der the Poverty Re­duc­tion Pro­gramme here in the Prime Min­is­ter Of­fice and noth­ing has changed. It is just like the Of­fice of the First Lady in the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

He dis­missed claims that the Spe­cial Projects Of­fice’s se­lec­tion cri­te­ria of re­cip­i­ents of food aid and wheel chairs was based on the pref­er­ences of chiefs and lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils.

Mr Hlalele said last Fri­day’s dis­tri­bu­tion of food parcels in Ma­hobong con­stituency in Leribe was not po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated but was an ac­tiv­ity or­gan­ised by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment com­mu­nity coun­cil and lo­cal chiefs in the vil­lages in the con­stituency.

Dr Tha­bane had to bring a beefed up se­cu­rity en­tourage to Ma­hobong, Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) leader Mothe­joa Mets­ing’s con­stituency, amid fears the deputy pre­mier’s sup­port­ers would dis­rupt the event.

“Re­cently we were in the Thaba-bo­siu con­stituency that was won by the ABC in the past elec­tions, and it would be pre­pos­ter­ous to say we went to the Ma­hobong con­stituency to buy votes,” he said.

“It was not a charm of­fen­sive for the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy sup­port­ers but a gen­uine gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive in­tended to as­sist com­mu­ni­ties in the Ma­hobong con­stituency as was the case in Thaba-bo­siu.”

THE Spe­cial Projects depart­ment in Prime Min­is­ter Tha­bane’s of­fice is headed by his wife Li­a­biloe ‘Mai­sa­iah Tha­bane (right) who has been as­sist­ing needy com­mu­ni­ties.

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