Call to revamp IEC

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MASERU — Stakeholders attending a national conference to celebrate Lesotho’s 20 years of constitutional democracy have called for an overhaul of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The call to revamp the IEC came up during a presentation by Public Service Commissioner Sekara Mafisa who spoke on electoral politics, including election management, and challenges and
strengths of the Mixed Member Proportional representation.

Mafisa served as the first-ever IEC chairman upon its inauguration in 1997. He later worked as
Lesotho’s Ombudsman. Senator Futho Hoohlo, the secretary-general of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), had asked Mafisa to share his experiences and give advice on how best IEC commissioners could be appointed.

This after Hoohlo suggested that IEC appointments have always been handled “in a casual manner”
and called for a more professional approach. Hoohlo expressed concern that the IEC was overloaded with work and acted as an election management body in addition to registering voters
and political parties, among other duties.

High Court Judge Semapo Peete suggested an increase in the number of IEC commissioners to five or seven from the current three.

Justice Peete said increasing the number of commissioners would make the IEC more epresentative of all stakeholders. He also called or an electoral tribunal to hear electoral disputes.

“There should be a tribunal after elections that should look into electoral disputes so that the High Court is a court of review for such cases only,” Justice Peete said.

Justice Peete told the conference he was once accused of having received a bribe after he gave a judgment on an electoral matter. Such malicious attempts at politicising and trivialising the judiciary could be avoided if there was a tribunal that could first consider all electoral disputes, post-elections, before these were taken to the High Court.

Professor Nqosa Mahao of Wits University in South Africa said there was need for electoral disputes to be decided speedily.

Mahao said in the 1960s courts used to speedily give decisions. There was need for Lesotho courts to quickly deliver judgments in general. That would help ensure speedy resolution of electoral disputes. Lesotho’s courts are notorious for slow delivery of judgments.

Mafisa described the current processes of appointing IEC commissioners as a “step in the right direction for Lesotho.”

While there could be some problems inherent in the appointment process, the involvement of all registered political parties was a big positive step. Mafisa said even if the IEC was to be revamped, there was still need for the commission to be retained as the sole electoral management body tasked with the duty of registering voters.

He said the registration of voters was very central to elections management and that process should remain in the hands of the IEC.

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