THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it is forging ahead with the delimitation of constituencies ahead of this year’s elections.
This after the Democratic Congress (DC) failed to secure an interim order to stop the delimitation exercise, pending the finalisation of its application for a final order permanently stopping the process which was started in 2018.
Justice Fumane Khabo heard the matter last week but did not grant the interim order. She only granted the prayer for the matter to be heard on an urgent basis. She said the main application would be heard on 31 January 2022.
The application was filed by DC secretary general, Tšitso Cheba, and the party’s aspiring MP for the Qaqatu constituency, Lethusang Kompi.
The duo argues that the IEC must be stopped on the grounds that it began delimiting constituency boundaries when it had no commissioners in 2018. They argue that the delimitation exercise was conducted under the supervision of the commission’s director of elections and not the commissioners as provided for by section 135 of the National Assembly Act of 2011. Therefore, the ongoing delimitation exercise is illegal and must be stopped since it was started by unauthorized people, Messrs Cheba and Kompi argue.
The IEC is the first respondent while other political parties including the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the DC’s other current coalition government partners are also cited as co-respondents. All in all, there are 47 respondents in the lawsuit.
IEC spokesperson, Tuoe Hantsi, told the Lesotho Times that they were forging ahead with the delimitation exercise because the court had not granted an interim order to halt the process.
“There is nothing prohibiting the IEC from proceeding,” Mr Hantsi said.
“We cannot stop the process just because we have been sued. If we were to stop, it means we will only start when the matter has been disposed of and we cannot tell when that will happen,” he added.
This week, the IEC also issued a statement, inviting the public to make comments on the proposed delimitation of constituencies.
“The Commission is once again inviting the public to submit their comments and objections on the new proposed constituency boundaries in writing to the offices of IEC at the districts and constituencies. The display of these new proposed maps showing the names and the descriptions of the new proposed boundaries of all constituencies for inspection started on 4 January 2022 and will continue until 28 January 2022. The maps will be displayed at the IEC districts’ offices and constituencies’ offices. Be a responsible citizen and make your voice heard. Take some minutes of your time and make a contribution in writing towards this good initiative,” the IEC said.
The IEC began delimiting the constituencies in 2018. The exercise was begun under the previous IEC commissioners, Mahapela Lehohla, ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Makase Nyaphisi whose tenure expired in January 2019.
Their successors, Mphasa Mokhochane, Karabo Mokobocho and Tšoeu Petlane, were appointed in November 2020.
It is therefore not clear why Messrs Cheba and Kompi are saying there were no commissioners in 2018 when Messrs Lehohla, Pholo and Nyaphisi’s contracts expired in January 2019.
In the preliminary delimitation exercise, the IEC had proposed to reduce the number of rural constituencies and create more urban ones because of migration. However, the DC and other congress parties in September 2021 opposed the proposals amid indications that they fear their performance in next year’s elections will be adversely affected if the rural constituencies they consider to be their strongholds are reduced.
The Congress parties then threatened to sue the IEC if it did not suspend the constituency delimitation process.
Furthermore, one of the congress parties’ leaders, Kimetso Mathaba of the National Independent Party (NIP), even drafted a constitutional amendment bill aimed at suspending the delimitation of constituencies until after the elections which are due any time after September 2022.
Mr Mathaba’s November 2021 bill seeks to amend section 67 of the constitution which empowers the IEC to delineate constituencies every 10 years.