No end to IEC money woes

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THERE is no end in sight to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s money troubles, with the electoral body reiterating that its operations continue to be crippled by lack of funds.

The IEC explains its financial troubles in a 9 September 2021 letter by its acting director of elections, Lehlohonolo Suping, in response to the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC).

The TRC’s Tsikoane Peshoane had on 31 August 2021 written to the electoral body demanding, to among other things, know why it had suspended the delimitation of constituencies without any explanation to justify that decision.

Mr Peshoane had warned failure to carry out the delimitation process would be a grave breach of the constitution.

“The TRC is of the position that constituency delimitation is not negotiable as it is a matter of constitutional dictates, hence the process should be seen through. The TRC is further of the position that, considering that general elections are set for September 2022, it is befitting that the delimitation of constituencies is executed expeditiously in full adherence to the constitution and the laws of Lesotho…,” Mr Peshoane had written in a letter copied to the head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitation team to Lesotho, retired former South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, political parties and various foreign missions in Lesotho.

The delimitation process ensures that about the same numbers of voters are allocated to a constituency. In his response Advocate Suping said the IEC could not proceed with the delimitation process because of lack of funds.

It was for the same reason that the IEC had failed to hold by elections in five constituencies and several other municipal wards.

“The Commission continues to engage strategic stakeholders in attempts to secure the requisite funding for all the outstanding activities, which have been stalled by lack of funding,” Adv Suping wrote.

“I would like to take you into my confidence that the IEC as an independent constitutional election management body, performs its duties as independently as it possibly can within the precincts of the constitution and all laws governing its operations. I would also like to remind you that the IEC’s independence is limited to administrative and not financial issues hence the current restrictions in performing its mandate due to financial constraints.”

There was no indication in the letter that the IEC would have funds anytime soon to implement its mandate.

The holding of by-elections in five constituencies remains a hot issue as the congress movement has previously accused the fractured main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)-controlled Ministry of Finance of purposely sabotaging the electoral process over fears the ABC could lose in all the five constituencies.

Parties would have used the by-elections as a performance yardstick for next year’s general elections. In June this year, the finance ministry advised the IEC to abandon the holding of the by-elections due to lack of funds. The ministry said the IEC should instead start preparing for next year’s general elections.  The move did not go down well with other political parties.

The Democratic Congress has on the other hand been opposed to the delimitation exercise. A leaked IEC document first reported by this newspaper had shown that the preliminary delimitation work would most probably reduce rural constituencies by abolishing or merging them due to migration which had seen more voting age people move to the urban areas, strongholds of the ABC.

For instance, Maseru, a stronghold of the ABC would gain four more seats from 18 to 22.  Rural areas are on the other hand the strongholds of the DC.  The IEC’s failure to complete the delimitation exercise would thus be good news to the DC as the elections would be convened with unchanged electoral boundaries.

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