MASERU — The appointment of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s acting commissioner ‘Mamosebi Pholo by the Council of State threatens the electoral body’s “credibility, independence and neutrality”.
This is the view of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), a relatively small breakaway party from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), expressed during a press briefing on Tuesday, Pholo’s appointment into the electoral body compromises its credibility because of her perceived political affiliation.
The LPC claimed that last March, Pholo contested the Basotho National Party (BNP) national executive committee elections for the deputy leadership post.
The LPC is questioning Pholo’s credibility in the run-up to the scheduled appointment of a permanent IEC commission in late December or early January.
She is the acting IEC commissioner appointed along with her colleague Fako Likoti by the Council of State, and were both inaugurated to their six-month acting capacities on June 7.
The LPC also questioned Pholo’s appointment in a letter to the Council of State on August 14, penned and signed by the party’s secretary general Moipone Piet.
The Council of State is responsible for appointing IEC commissioners in consultation with the King on the Prime Minister’s recommendation.
In its letter Piet noted: “While nothing in law forbids this appointment, my party wishes to register its concern pertaining to the importance of maintaining the independence and neutrality of this institution at the core of our fragile democracy.”
Piet had told the Council of State that it was public knowledge that Pholo is “politically active having contested the BNP NEC elections during its last elective conference”.
“That she is appointed to serve in this noble position, especially at a time when her party is in government, has the potential to erode the level of trust the IEC enjoys within and among political stakeholders,” Piet wrote.
“This could cloud our democracy with a lot of controversy, as IEC decisions could be negatively viewed at every stage of its operations.”
The BNP formed a coalition government with the All Basotho Convention led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and the Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing after the May 2012 poll produced a hung parliament.
Meanwhile the party’s deputy leader Molahlehi Letlotlo told the press briefing that the IEC together with other political parties were working on the processes of establishing a permanent IEC but that “Pholo’s appointment still irks the LPC”.
According to Letlotlo, ever since Piet wrote to the Council of State, there had not been any response to the party’s letter “despite developments that could see Pholo making it into the permanent IEC”.
“Plans are ahead to appoint candidates who would contest for positions in the permanent IEC,” Letlotlo said.
“Soon we will be calling for applications for candidates wishing to be appointed to the IEC.”
Letlotlo registered that the LPC was concerned that the process towards appointing a permanent IEC “are going ahead without our concerns Regarding Pholo’s status being addressed”.
Piet added it was in the opinion of the LPC that section 66 (b) of the second amendment to the Constitution was a deliberate and wise move to ensure that the IEC would never be perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have any political party inclination.
“The relevant clause may not have been worded to clearly reflect that no politically active person would be illegible to serve in the IEC, for the purpose of preserving its credibility, independence and neutrality.
“Obviously, this is a consideration the Council of State could not make in pondering its advice to His Majesty.
“Subsequently, the material effect of the final decision to appoint Mrs. Mamosebi Pholo could have compromised this institution’s (IEC’s) neutrality,” LPC said in the letter.
Contacted for a comment Pholo denied contesting for BNP deputy leader position at the party’s last elective conference.
She said: “I have never been politically active, I attended a conference of the BNP of course, but I went there with one of my portfolios as a consultant. I was then nominated to contest the elections but I declined.”
Commenting on fears that the IEC’s credibility would be tarnished by her being part of the electoral body’s management Pholo said, “People are entitled to their opinions and decisions”.
“I’ve always perceived myself to be a neutral person. People who appointed me to this position surely evaluated everything and considered my appointment cautiously,” Pholo said.