IEC al­lays fears over com­put­ers

Lesotho Times - - Elections 2015 - Billy Ntaote

TWENTY-ONE com­put­ers stolen from the In­de­pen­dent elec­toral Com­mis­sion (Iec)’s Maseru ware­house in Oc­to­ber last year could not have been used to tam­per with the vot­ers’ roll, thereby sab­o­tag­ing the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tions.

The po­lice have since re­cov­ered 17 of the stolen com­put­ers and con­cluded they could not have been used to in­ter­fere with IEC op­er­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice of­fi­cers han­dling the case, the ma­chines were re­cov­ered from stu­dents who had for­mat­ted them and were us­ing them for their homework.

Se­nior In­spec­tor Se­abata Tu­tuoane, In­spec­tor Ran­toane Mot- soetla and Sub-in­spec­tor Phole Ma­sita are con­duct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and on Mon­day told a press con­fer­ence in Maseru that they were con­fi­dent the re­main­ing four com­put­ers would soon be re­cov­ered.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors also said five sus­pects in the theft would ap­pear in court on 25 Fe­bru­ary—three days be­fore Le­sotho goes to an early elec­tion prompted by the col­lapse of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

“The com­put­ers were sold to stu­dents study­ing in both Le­sotho and South Africa, and our in­ves­ti­ga­tions are in progress,” Snr In­spec­tor Tu­tuoane said.

“We are yet to re­cover all the com­put­ers, but like I said, in­ves­ti­ga­tions are in progress and only this morn­ing, we re­cov­ered one of the com­put­ers in Quthing.”

Sub Insp Phole added: “The ini­tial sus­pi­cion was that the com­put­ers could have been used to com­mit elec­toral fraud, but we have since re­alised this could not have been pos­si­ble; they were not used to tam­per with the vot­ers’ roll.”

Ac­cord­ing to IEC Com­mis­sioner, ‘Mamosebi Pholo, the po­lice had ar­rested the com­mis­sion’s two tem­po­rary staff in con­nec­tion with the theft.

“Through the two’s as­sis­tance, the po­lice were able to find 15 com­put­ers in Le­sotho while two more were re­cov­ered in Gaut­eng and Dur­ban.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tors have also told us that they be­lieve one of the com­put­ers is in Klerks­dorp, South Africa, and that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore they get it.

“As soon as the ma­chines were re­cov­ered, they were taken to the sup­plier who had also de­vel­oped our vot­ers’ reg­is­tra­tion op­er­at­ing sys­tem and in­stalled it in the com­put­ers.

“we did this to find out what the com­put­ers had been used for from the time they were stolen, up to their re­cov­ery, and are happy to say they were not used to hack into the IEC sys­tem .

“The South African sup­plier said the com­put­ers had been for­mat­ted and in­stalled with Win­dows 7 so that they could op­er­ate as nor­mal com­put­ers.

“It ap­pears the com­put­ers had been sold to un­sus­pect­ing stu­dents who were now largely us­ing them for their as­sign­ments,” said Ad­vo­cate Pholo.

Com­mis­sioner Makase Nyaphisi also al­layed Ba­sotho’s fears that the stolen com­put­ers could have been used to ma­nip­u­late the vot­ers’ roll and il­le­gally reg­is­ter vot­ers.

“Our Data Com­mit­tee launched an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion and found out that the re­cov­ered com­put­ers could not have been used to ma­nip­u­late the vot­ers’ roll,” Dr Nyaphisi said.

Added a mem­ber of the Data Com­mit­tee, Futho Hoohlo:“what we also es­tab­lished was that four of the re­cov­ered com­put­ers had not even been con­nected to the IEC sys­tem. So what we are say­ing is there is no way the vot­ers’ roll could have been tam­pered with.”

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