MASERU — Former Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla has been appointed the new chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the all-too-powerful body tasked with running elections in the Kingdom.
Although an official announcement is yet to be made on the new appointments to the IEC, the Lesotho Times is authoritatively informed that Lehohla is the new boss of the august body tasked with administering and managing elections in Lesotho.
However, his appointment may trigger some ructions as Lehohla fared poorly in an assessment conducted by a consultancy firm, Quadrant Consulting, engaged to examine the various candidates who were vying for the coveted IEC posts.
Makase Nyaphisi, Lesotho’s former ambassador to Russia, and ‘Mamosebi Pholo, a lawyer who has been an acting commissioner in the IEC for the last five months, are the two new substantive commissioners in the three-member IEC.
A shortlist of six candidates vying for the three vacant posts of chairman and two commissioners of the IEC was submitted for consideration to the Council of State by the Political Leaders Forum (PLF) on December 5 2013 in line with the constitution.
The PLF is a grouping of leaders of all political parties registered with the IEC and plays an important role in interviewing and recommending potential IEC appointees to the Council of State.
The Council of State’s chief mandate is to advise the King in the discharge of his functions.
The Prime Minister, as the custodian of executive power, wields enormous power in the Council of State, which recommends the IEC appointees to the King.
A confidential document headlined “Decisions on selection process of IEC Commissioners”, seen by the Lesotho Times, had ranked Mawinnie Kanetsi, a civil society activist, as the best performer among the 11 candidates shortlisted from an initial list of 27. She also topped the list of the final six submitted to the Council of State with a total aggregate score of 77.3 percent.
She was followed by Tšeliso Bale, the resident magistrate of Berea district, who scored an aggregate mark of 72.4 percent.
Mamosebi Pholo, who has been the acting commissioner came third with a score of 70 percent.
Lehohla, the former chief justice whose battles for seniority in the courts with Court of Appeal President Michael Ramodibedi dominated news headlines in the past year, was ranked fourth with an aggregate score of 69.7 percent.
Nyaphisi, the former ambassador, scored fifth with 68.8 percent while Fako Likoti, the former political science lecturer at the National University of Lesotho and current acting chairman of the IEC, was number six with 66.8 percent.
Likoti was nevertheless the top favourite of some of the political leaders in the PLF who perceived him as adequately experienced since he had served as a commissioner in the last IEC from 2008 until the expiry of its term of office this year.
Likoti had then been appointed to act as IEC chair pending the appointment of a new full-time commission.
He nevertheless scored poorly in the tests conducted by Quadrant Consulting, the consulting firm appointed to help in the recruitment process.
Even though the six shortlisted candidates were ranked in terms of their respective performances in the various tests conducted by Quadrant Consulting and the PLF, the Council of State can handpick any three candidates of its choice from the six, for appointment by King Letsie III, despite the performance rankings.
Originally, 27 candidates applied for positions on the IEC.
The number was then whittled down to 11 before the final six were shortlisted.
Various written and oral tests were done on the applicants, including “personality analysis and conflict management style” examinations.
Quadrant Consulting was chosen to assist in the recruitment process of IEC members ahead of the Malawi based Institute of Development Management (IDM) consultancy.
Authoritative sources said some political parties had fiercely opposed Lehohla’s shortlisting saying he had not acquitted himself well at the judiciary which remains saddled with a huge backlog of cases.
His feuds with Ramodibedi had also tarnished his image in the eyes of some political parties.
Pholo had also been fiercely opposed by other political parties over her alleged close links to the Basotho National Party.
The Lesotho People’s Congress had been most vociferous against Pholo saying her involvement would tarnish and compromise the credibility of the IEC.
The Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo (LMM) and Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) spearheaded the attacks on Lehohla, accusing him of having “run down the judiciary”.
The Democratic Congress (DC) is said to have been unenthusiastic with both Lehohla and Pholo.
After his fall from grace at the judiciary, Lehohla’s appointment effectively casts him into the limelight again as he will now have to oversee the running of elections, including the registration of political parties and registration of voters.