Parliament postpones local government elections

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MASERU — Parliament this week agreed to postpone the local government elections by twelve months after it passed the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2010.

The Bill was tabled on April 16.

The government argued that the postponement will give parliament time to amend the Local Government Elections Act 2004 to avoid disputes.

In his submission to parliament on Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla said the Local Government Elections Act 2004 needed to be amended and the postponement will give parliament time to consult.

Lehohla was making the submissions on behalf of Local Government Minister Pontso Sekatle who was not in parliament.

“Amendments need to be made regarding the reservation of female wards within local councils,” Lehohla said.

“The discriminatory clause should be suspended in order to level the playing field for both male and female candidates.

“Again, a delegation comprising of representatives of all the stakeholders in the local government elections was sent to Tanzania to study how women candidates are treated within local councils there.

“There have been recommendations made. This time will allow us to study them and also concentrate on the demarcation of constituencies.

“Therefore, the request is that councillors’ term of office be extended by a period not exceeding twelve months.”

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had scheduled the elections for May 15, 2010.

The term for local councils ends on April 30, 2010.

In January this year opposition parties had threatened to boycott the local government elections “if fundamental issues affecting the running of the election” were not addressed.

After a series of consultations between the IEC, the government and opposition, 20 parties including the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party, signed an agreement to postpone the election.

The agreement was signed on February 9. A joint statement released by the parties said this will “enable the amendment of both acts and other laws, to consider affirmative action and other issues relating to the good management of local government elections in Lesotho”.

But it was not without drama that the Bill was approved on Monday.

Senkatana party leader and legislator for Mokhotlong constituency, Lehlohonolo Ts’ehlana, said he was not happy with the decision to postpone the elections.

“Does the country’s constitution give parliament the power to extend councillors’ term of office?,” Ts’ehlana challenged Lehohla.

“Shouldn’t the public have been consulted before parliament made such a drastic decision?”

To this the Deputy Prime Minister replied, “Ntate Ts’ehlana must accept that the constitution is actually drafted by this very parliament”.

“If any member of the public has grievances regarding decisions made by parliament they are at liberty to take it up with their constituencies through their MPs to request parliament to undo that which does not sit well with them.”

“Are you intent on committing the same mistake you did with the Land Bill 2009, of excluding the public?” Ts’ehlana fired at Lehohla again.

“Are you defying this nation by postponing the elections simply because of pressure emanating from just 20 people?”

To this the Likhetlane legislator and ABC youth league president, Libe Moremoholo, interjected by suggesting that Ts’ehlana was probably unhappy because he had not signed the agreement to postpone the elections.

“Are you disappointed because you were excluded from the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement?”

“The agreement was reached by the IEC and all political parties registered with it. Tell me, is Senkatana registered with the IEC?”

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