Sparks fly high at IEC meeting

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MASERU — A meeting called by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to discuss the forthcoming local government elections almost degenerated into a farce yesterday as opposition parties quarrelled among themselves.

The bone of contention among the parties was their non-inclusion in the elections monitoring committee, a body set up last month to monitor elections.

The opposition leaders bitterly exchanged words and pointed fingers at each other fuming as representatives of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Local Government Minister Pontšo Sekatle, watched silently.

Jeremane Ramathebane, the Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) leader, fired the first salvo when he expressed dissatisfaction that his party had no representative in the elections monitoring committee.

The visibly angry Ramathebane threatened to walk out of the meeting hall when the committee tabled its report because “I despise receiving reports from other parties instead of the party I am leading reporting to me”.

“I will not allow myself to be ensnared into believing that representatives of other parties are capable of giving me reports that will be in the interests of the Basotho Batho Democratic Party,” Ramathebane said.

“I would rather walk out of this boardroom when that committee of yours tables its report,” he said.

The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC)’s representative, Molahlehi Letlotlo, tried to stop Ramathebane from making further accusations but was curtly told to shut up.

“You seem to take me for granted,” Ramathebane barked, pointing a finger at Letlotlo.

Ramathebane was joined by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane and the ABC chairman, Molobeli, Soulo, in fanning the flames of anger.

Thabane told other opposition parties that they had let him down and therefore he no longer had confidence in them.

“I will not mince words in saying I have completely lost confidence in my opposition colleagues after they showed me their true colours,” Thabane said.

“I will campaign in my own way and deal with the IEC in my own way because my fellow opposition leaders have gravely disappointed me.”

Thabane is credited with the idea of setting up the elections monitoring committee after the IEC twice postponed local government elections behind the opposition’s backs.

The purpose of the committee is to ensure that the IEC prepares and runs elections that are free, fair and transparent and report its findings to the parties and recommend what should be done to correct what is wrong.

The committee would be composed of experts in different fields who could be relevant to the processes that will ensure legitimate elections.

Party representatives were divided into three groups from opposition parties, the government and the alliance of the LCD and National Independent Party.

The ABC yesterday bitterly complained that it has been excluded.

“If my colleagues decide that they will not exercise fairness we will have to go and leave them with their monitoring committee,” Thabane said.

Soulo added that they would prefer to part ways if the opposition was not willing to review the issue of representation in the committee.

However, the LPC’s Letlotlo argued the ABC denied itself an opportunity to be represented in the committee when it failed to submit the names of its two representatives at a meeting called in March.

“The ABC failed to submit the names of its people when the deadline arrived and it should not blame anybody for that,” Letlotlo said.

A member of a task team that facilitated the establishment of the monitoring committee, Sello Maphalla, from the Lesotho Workers Party, said Ramathebane had no reason to complain because from the onset he had refused to be part of the arrangement.

“Mr Ramathebane should not feel left out at all,” Maphalla said.

At the suggestion of Soulo, opposition parties agreed to review the issue within two weeks.

After this, the parties turned their wrath to the IEC.

The monitoring committee yesterday issued a report which alleged that the IEC had ignored the slow pace of registration of voters in rural areas.

The committee report says investigations had revealed that five register mobile units in Berea had broken down but when the committee asked for explanation from the IEC IT section it was told that there were no problems at all.

The IT section, the report says, provided a national report reflecting that Berea had no problems and further said “the problem is inability of personnel operating” the register mobile units.

“As a follow-up the committee returned to Berea district electoral office on the 19th April 2011 and was informed that only two RMUs were in good working order, while five were erratic and three were completely out of order,” reads part of the report.

The BNP youth league leader Tšepo Monethi expressed dissatisfaction that the IEC bought equipment of high standard that could not be operated by its staff.

“Why did you recruit personnel that cannot operate the machines you bought?” Monethi said.

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