MASERU — The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is demanding that proportional representation (PR) local government councillors who defected to the main opposition Democratic (DC) be disqualified.
If after two weeks from Sunday October 13, the PR councillors in question have not justified why they should not be stripped of their positions, or their responses are not satisfactory, they risk being reported to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for possible disqualification.
The ultimatum was issued by Deputy Prime Minister and LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing, adding that some of the councillors had defected to the All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Metsing was delivering a speech at the opening of his party’s special indaba on Saturday night.
The LCD and ABC are partners in a tripartite government formed also with the Basotho National Party (BNP) after the May 26 poll produced a hung parliament, with Metsing also being the minister of local government.
“The executive committee has written such councillors letters demanding explanation as to why the LCD should not expel them from their positions,” Metsing said.
“If their responses are not satisfactory or they have not responded within 14 days from today, LCD will report them to the IEC, that they are no longer members of the LCD and that they should be disqualified.”
Metsing added after these PR councillors in question have been removed by the IEC, they will subsequently be replaced by LCD members who feature on the official PR list submitted to the electoral commission.
Metsing advised defectors to leave the LCD’s legacy behind if they don’t want LCD to follow them to demand its own.
“A boy’s father’s legacy cannot be easily squandered. If you choose to, make sure that you leave the bones because the boy will demand that same legacy when he grows up,” Metsing said sarcastically.
The LCD leader also told the rally that the office of the LCD secretary-general Keketso Rants’o, had also written letters to the PR councillors referred to, warning them of the implications that could arise from their decision to defect, particularly to the DC.
One such letter this paper, which Lesotho Times has seen, is written to ‘Mantebaleng Shobela of the Hlotse Urban Council, Lisemeng II, bearing the LCD logo, titled “Your Choice to Expel Yourself from the LCD” dated October 7 and signed by Rants’o.
“It has come to the attention of the national executive committee of the LCD that you were bestowed with the responsibility of being the Hlotse Urban proportional representation councillor under the banner of the LCD,” Rants’o says in the letter.
“It has come to the LCD NEC that you have since turned your back on the party and that you are now a member of a political party fighting the LCD.”
Rants’o adds: “As per the constitution of the LCD, you are perceived as having expelled yourself from the party. You therefore have no right to continue being a councillor under the banner of the LCD.”
In the same letter, Rants’o further tells Shobela that the LCD NEC is “seriously considering taking legal action to remove you from the council so that more deserving PR candidates can replace you”.
However, the Local Government Act 1997 does not say whether any PR councillor can be removed from office on political grounds.
Section 12 of the Act, under ‘Filling of Casual Vacancies’ states that where any councillor refuses or resigns his office or dies, or vacates his office under section 11, or if a casual vacancy occurs in any other manner “shall send or cause to be sent a written communication to the elections office for the local authority, upon receipt of such communication a by-election in accordance with the provisions of written law for the time being applicable in that behalf shall be held for the purpose of filling such vacancy.”
Metsing added that even some LCD constituency committees have written such councillors letters appealing to them to return to the LCD “but without much success”.
Section 11 (1) (a) under “Refusal or Vacation or Resignation of Office” states that if any person elected as a councillor of a local authority decides for any reason not to serve as councillor, “he may tender a written communication of his refusal of office addressed to the election officer while (b) adds that such a resignation or refusal of office shall be deemed effective once it has been accepted by the elections officer, or mayor or chairman of the respective council.”
However, section 65 (1) of the same Act under Suspension or Dissolution of Council, gives the minister powers to suspend councils and in extreme cases dissolve them in consultation with the Prime Minister if there is cause to believe “a council is unable to discharge all or any of its functions”.
“If the minister considers it necessary or expedient in the interest of local administration to do so, he may, by order published in the gazette, appoint an officer from the local government service or from the public service to be administrator for such council.”
Section 65 (2) adds that “after due inquiry, the minister can dissolve the council after receiving prior approval of the prime minister and direct the holding of elections within ninety days.”