THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) application seeking to strip the Democratic Congress (DC) and Alliance of Democrats (AD) a combined four proportional representation seats will finally be heard to finality on 20 and 21 March 2023.
This after the High Court, sitting as a Court of Disputed Returns, convened yesterday and set down the hearing dates.
The IEC is seeking to strip the DC and AD of three and one PR seats respectively, claiming it erroneously allocated them to the two parties.
The electoral body contends that it made an error while calculating and allocating the PR seats after the 7 October 2022 general elections.
It states in its court papers that the four seats were supposed to have been allocated to the Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP) , United For Change (UFC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC).
The IEC’s lawyer, Kabelo Letuka, BNP lawyer Christopher Lephuthing and the DC lawyer Qhalehang Letsika appeared before the Court of Disputed Returns yesterday which then set down the hearing dates.
The court consist of a panel of three High Court judges; Justices Moroke Mokhesi, Keketso Moahloli and Fumane Khabo.
“This matter should be disposed of expeditiously, bearing in mind the history of this case. We are prepared to grant indulgence that this matter be heard on 20 and 21 March 2023,” Justice Mokhesi ordered.
The BNP supports the IEC application while the DC is opposing the litigation.
The IEC first approached the Constitutional Court on 24 October 2022 for an order to strip the DC of three PR seats and the AD of one PR seat to transfer them to their “rightful” recipients.
However, the Constitutional Court ruled it had no jurisdiction over the matter forcing the IEC to relaunch the application in the High Court on 13 December 2022. The BNP had already launched an appeal at the Court of Appeal on 8 December 2022 against the Constitutional Court ruling.
The BNP, IEC and the DC subsequently resolved to settle the appeal out of court in order for the IEC application to proceed before the Court of Disputed Returns.
“The matter in C of A (CIV/87/2022) is remitted to the Court of Disputed Returns to be dealt with by that court in accordance with the applicable procedures and processes,” part of the settlement reads.
All in all, the IEC had allocated 11 PR seats to the Mathibeli Mokhothu-led DC, which won 18 of 79 constituency seats at the October 2022 polls. The electoral body had also allocated three PR seats to Monyane Moleleki’s AD, which had only won two constituency seats. With its total of five seats, the AD subsequently agreed a deal to form a governing coalition with new Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s RFP which won a landslide 57 out of the 79 seats. The other party in the governing coalition is Health Minister Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC) which has a total of four seats.
The AD did not bother to challenge the IEC’s move to strip it of one PR seat. This is probably because the loss of the seat would not affect its standing as a member of the RFP-led governing coalition. The coalition would still have a combined 64 seats, just enough to remain as the government.