Twenty-one computers stolen from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s Maseru warehouse in October last year could not have been used to tamper with the voters’ roll, thereby sabotaging the upcoming general elections.
The police have since recovered 17 of the stolen computers and concluded they could not have been used to interfere with IEC operations.
According to police officers handling the case, the machines were recovered from students who had formatted them and were using them for their homework.
Senior Inspector Seabata Tutuoane, Inspector Rantoane Motsoetla and Sub-Inspector Phole Masita are conducting the investigations and on Monday told a press conference in Maseru that they were confident the remaining four computers would soon be recovered.
The investigators also said five suspects in the theft would appear in court on 25 February—three days before Lesotho goes to an early election prompted by the collapse of the coalition government.
“The computers were sold to students studying in both Lesotho and South Africa, and our investigations are in progress,” Snr Inspector Tutuoane said.
“We are yet to recover all the computers, but like I said, investigations are in progress and only this morning, we recovered one of the computers in Quthing.”
Sub Insp Phole added: “The initial suspicion was that the computers could have been used to commit electoral fraud, but we have since realised this could not have been possible; they were not used to tamper with the voters’ roll.”
According to IEC Commissioner, ‘Mamosebi Pholo, the police had arrested the commission’s two temporary staff in connection with the theft.
“Through the two’s assistance, the police were able to find 15 computers in Lesotho while two more were recovered in Gauteng and Durban.
“The investigators have also told us that they believe one of the computers is in Klerksdorp, South Africa, and that it is only a matter of time before they get it.
“As soon as the machines were recovered, they were taken to the supplier who had also developed our voters’ registration operating system and installed it in the computers.
“We did this to find out what the computers had been used for from the time they were stolen, up to their recovery, and are happy to say they were not used to hack into the IEC system .
“The South African supplier said the computers had been formatted and installed with Windows 7 so that they could operate as normal computers.
“It appears the computers had been sold to unsuspecting students who were now largely using them for their assignments,” said Advocate Pholo.
Commissioner Makase Nyaphisi also allayed Basotho’s fears that the stolen computers could have been used to manipulate the voters’ roll and illegally register voters.
“Our Data Committee launched an independent investigation and found out that the recovered computers could not have been used to manipulate the voters’ roll,” Dr Nyaphisi said.
Added a member of the Data Committee, Futho Hoohlo:“What we also established was that four of the recovered computers had not even been connected to the IEC system. So what we are saying is there is no way the voters’ roll could have been tampered with.”