IEC dismisses bias charge

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MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has rejected charges that it manipulated constituency boundaries in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party ahead of local government elections in 2011.

Last week All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader, Thomas Thabane, criticised the IEC for allegedly gerrymandering constituency boundaries to ensure the LCD wins the coming elections.

Thabane further alleged that the IEC was conniving with the LCD to subvert election results.

Lesotho will vote in general elections in 2012.

The Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) deputy leader Sello Maphalla and the ABC legislator for Lithabaneng constituency, Motumi Ralejoe, also accused the IEC of bias when redrawing the boundaries.

They alleged that they were not consulted before and after the delimitation process.

But Rethabile Pholo, the IEC’s chief technical officer, said these allegations are unfounded, adding that some of the opposition leaders had failed to attend consultative meetings during the delimitation process.

Pholo said some of the opposition leaders now criticising the delimitation process attended the consultative meetings held in September last year.

“The irony of these accusations is the fact that Mr Sello Maphalla and Mr Motumi Ralejoe of the ABC participated in a workshop for stakeholders that was held in September 2009,” said Pholo.

“In a representative democracy it would have been expected that these two leaders would have presented their concerns and those of the members of the political parties they represented; but they did not.”

Pholo said the IEC had consultative meetings during the delimitation process.

 “The commission deliberated on representations from various quarters of the country — be they individuals, communities, even the very employees of the commission.

 “It does not make sense to claim that the commission did not consult.

“On September 8, 2009, at 1517hrs an officer in the office of the All Basotho Convention, M Ntabe, received and signed for an invitation letter from the IEC inviting the ABC for a meeting to review national constituency boundaries that was held on September 21, 2009”.

He said on September 25, 2009, the same “Ntabe on behalf of the ABC received and signed for a letter inviting the ABC for a meeting that was looking at the proposed boundaries for Motete constituency”.

“This is to cite but a few examples of the efforts that the IEC takes to involve the stakeholders in measures taken on whatever issue. They have always been invited to participate at every step taken before and during the review process,” Pholo said.

Pholo said the commission was surprised by Maphalla’s accusations that the IEC deliberately split the Ha-‘Malesaoana village in Hlotse with the aim of dividing people with the same interests.

“As for the ‘Malesaoana matter in Leribe, it came as a surprise to the IEC when Mr Maphalla levels unfounded accusations against the IEC.

“A presentation by the ‘Malesaoana community on October 10, 2009 was that ‘Malesaoana should remain in Hlotse constituency. This was considered.

“It is therefore surprising for the (LWP) deputy leader (Maphalla) to claim that the IEC deliberately split the Ha-‘Malesaoana village in Hlotse with the sole purpose of splitting a community that has the same interests between the constituencies of Hlotse and Mohobollo.

“The question to Mr Maphalla would be whether or not the ‘Malesaoana matter was his own or indeed he represented the community.

“What would he say to the fact that the community forwarded their representation and it was considered as aforementioned?”

Pholo said the IEC responded positively to most comments from leaders of different political parties.

He said the IEC accepted when the then secretary-general of the ABC Macaefa Billy and the deputy leader of the ABC Sello Machakela respectively suggested that the names for Thaba-Ts’oeu constituency be changed to Matelile and that of Pulane constituency be changed to Ts’oana-Makhulo.

“Where was Mr Maphalla when his colleagues took the opportunity to comment on the initial display of maps?

“The train left him while he was in slumber-land. He shouldn’t complain now when the process is finalised.”

The IEC says it has no interest over which party wins an election.

It also says it does not have any influence in the determination of election results.

He added that the IEC deals with all political parties equally and without favour.

“It remains with the political parties themselves to pull up their socks and do what they have to do in order to amass popularity with the electorate instead of apportioning blame in avoidance of the truth.”

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