MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) boss Faku Likoti is under fire for allegedly leaking information to the press.
Likoti, who is the IEC acting chairman, is alleged to have sent a message to a local newspaper reporter alleging that two people who were nominated to become commissioners did not qualify for the positions.
Likoti has vehemently denied sending the text messages.
The message was about Lefa Mokotjo and Advocate ’Mamosebi Pholo who had been nominated as IEC commissioners.
Pholo was sworn-in as acting commissioner on July 26 while Mokotjo’s nomination was withdrawn at the last minute.
The text says Mokotjo and Pholo could not be commissioners because they are office bearers in their respective political parties of Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party and Basotho National Party (BNP).
Mokotjo is the LCD chairman for the Mabote constituency.
Pholo is not an office bearer in the BNP but the text says she does not qualify because she contested for the party leadership.
The message also accuses Pholo of being a BNP women’s league member.
It cites Section 66 (6) (b) of the Constitution which disqualifies political office bearers from being IEC commissioners.
The implication that this text is from Likoti is based on its argument favouring the renewal of his contract as the commissioner.
The pronoun “I” appears twice in the text while the possessive pronoun “my” appears three times.
In the text it appears as if the author, suspected to be Likoti, argues that his contract should be renewed before Pholo and Mokotjo could be appointed in their acting positions.
“My renewal is based on the second amendment to the Constitution,” reads the text, also citing the IEC Act of 1997 and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
“Both sections must be fulfilled before acting appointments.”
“I must hav my substative Post before any Acting position can be constitutionally valid (sic).”
The text says acting positions “can only be valid when my substative position of 5yrs is renewed (sic)”.
“This means that acting commissioners cannot be in offince if i am not there (sic)”.
Although the message seen by the Lesotho Times does not show the author, Whitehorse Party leader Mohau Thakaso said he “suspects that chairman Likoti is actually the author”.
Thakaso said Likoti is the only commissioner left after the former chairperson Limakatso Mokhothu left.
Malefetsane Nkhahle, the other commissioner, died earlier this year.
“It is common knowledge that the King had to appoint two acting commissioners because Likoti was the only one left and his contract too was near expiry,” Thakaso said.
“Otherwise, who could have these concerns over the appointment of acting commissioners if not Likoti?” he said.
“Would that other person use the words ‘my’ and ‘I’ in relation to the current occupied position of commissioner in the IEC?”
Thakaso stated that “it is only logical Likoti is the author of the sms”.
Thakaso also made the same allegations in radio interviews this week.
“I say this because this sensitive information, which should remain confidential, was discussed at a higher level of decision making and I don’t think anybody below the rank of commissioner knew of it,” he said.
Thakaso declined to reveal the newspaper reporter to whom the information was allegedly leaked.
The reporter’s name has been withheld from this report for professional reasons.
Likoti has vehemently denied that he shared any information about Pholo and Mokotjo with a journalist.
“I am told that this cellphone text which is attributed to me has been forwarded from one person to another and to another, so how does anybody know that it originated from me?” Likoti said.
“There is a political malice in this whole thing,” he said, adding: “They have their own agenda and I will see where it is leading to.”
Likoti said he did not have any personal interest in people appointed to be commissioners “and even if I had an interest there was nothing I could do about it”.
“The appointment of IEC commissioners is way up above me. I don’t have a say even if I may have some opinions,” he said.
The main opposition Democratic Congress shadow minister for justice, Advocate Retšelisitsoe Masenyetse, said he was present at the Prime Minister’s office when the issue of Mokotjo and Pholo was discussed.
“This issue was not raised by commissioner Likoti because he was not even present at that meeting. It was raised by one of the leaders and we all agreed that Mr Mokotjo did not qualify because he was an office bearer in his LCD party,” Masenyetse said.
“It was me who suggested on constitutional points that the second nominee, ’Me` Pholo, qualified because she was not holding any office in the BNP,” he said.
“I think it is wrong to attribute these concerns to commissioner Likoti.”
The Lesotho People’s Congress leader, Molahlehi Letlotlo, has also said Likoti could not have had a hand in initiating the discussions about the eligibility of the candidates.
“We were at the Prime Minister’s office at Qhobosheaneng and Likoti was not part of the meeting,” Letlotlo said.
However, Thakaso argues that Likoti could have connived with the party leader who raised the issue.
This paper has established that the issue was raised by the Basotho Democratic National Party deputy leader, Pelele Letsoela, who could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print last night.