MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) tribunal on Tuesday barred the ruling Democratic Congress (DC) party from campaigning in 19 constituencies over the next seven days. In a default judgment delivered by the tribunal chairman, Sakoane Sakoane, the IEC said the “DC has in effect hampered the rights and freedoms of LCD enshrined in Schedule 2 paragraph 4 (f) of the Electoral Code of Conduct”. Under the terms of the judgment, the DC has been barred from campaigning in 19 constituencies that had been accused of taking away LCD property.
The LCD took the DC to the tribunal on April 16 accusing it of seizing some of its property when they broke away in February. The property included stamps, membership registers, membership forms and cards, flags, money, receipt books, bank books, stationery and a stone cutting machine. “Noting that the DC has not taken the opportunity afforded to it by the tribunal to either refute this evidence or facilitate transfer of the LCD property held by some members and office bearers of the DC, the tribunal concludes DC has in effect hampered the rights and freedoms of LCD,” the tribunal ruled. “In terms of the electoral code all parties had undertaken to do nothing to impede the democratic right of any political party through its candidates, canvassers and representatives to have reasonable access to electors for the purpose of conducting elector education, fund-raising, canvassing membership and soliciting support.” The tribunal also noted that despite repeated requests and exchange of correspondence between the LCD and DC, the latter had refused to hand over the property to the LCD. The LCD presented oral and written evidence. Nine witnesses for the party corroborated the evidence given by LCD treasurer Lebohang Nts’inyi.
The DC, which was the defendant, cross-examined Nts’inyi only. The tribunal noted that the cross-examination of this witness did not refute the evidence she gave. “The DC did not cross-examine the rest of the complainants’ witnesses because they willingly chose to boycott attendance of the tribunal hearing of 11th May, 2012, when the nine witnesses from constituencies gave their evidence,” the tribunal said. The DC last week vowed not to attend the IEC tribunal as long as it was chaired by Sakoane. The DC secretary general, Ralechate ’Mokose, said the party would not attend any hearing presided by Sakoane even if it means losing the case. ’Mokose said he would not be bothered if Sakoane ruled in favour of the DC’s opponents because “attending hearings under his chairmanship is as good as not attending at all”.
The hearing then proceeded in the DC’s absence. The LCD claimed the seizing of its property by the DC had seriously affected its election campaign programme. The LCD said it had not been able to train its party agents. The party also claimed that the absence of party flags for constituency and branch structures had negatively impacted on rally attendances because a flag is the signal that
sends accurate message to supporters about where the party was holding its meetings. The LCD said the holding of cash and bank books meant that the party was unable to send its officials on
campaigning missions. “It also means that the offices are unable to buy essentials such as batteries for loud hailers and other equipment,” the LCD said.