PFD refutes deregistration claims 

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Staff Reporter

LAW and Justice Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane’s Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) has refuted claims by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) sources that it is one of 10 parties facing deregistration over several transgressions including the failure to elect their national executive committees (NECs).

The Lesotho Times had learnt from IEC sources that the PFD was among the parties facing deregistration.

The PFD was first registered in February 1998. According to its constitution, it ought to be having NEC elections every three years. The IEC sources had said it last submitted its list of NEC members in February 2012, suggesting that it has not held any elections since that time. The sources say the party has not submitted its symbol, its sub-lease agreement or any other documents showing where it is headquartered as per the IEC’s requirements.

The Lesotho Times contacted Adv Rakuoane who9 said his party had complied with all requirements and “it would not make sense” for it to be struck off the register.

“We don’t owe the IEC anything because if we did, we wouldn’t have received our funds from the IEC this year.

“In fact, the IEC is the one which is falling short of expectations. They have not conducted any inspections. The issue of renewing the party symbol renewal is an ancient requirement which was stopped in 2011. That the IEC is demanding it shows that those entrusted with implementing the laws are not doing their part,” Adv Rakuoane said.

This week, PFD General Secretary, Seipati Makhalanyane, produced documents that appeared to show that his party’s affairs were in order.

“We have proof of our submissions to the IEC with IEC stamps. In 2015, the PFD held its 10th elective conference from 9th to 11 January in Maseru,” Mr Makhalanyane said.

“The then newly elected committee’s names were filed and submitted to the Law Office and the IEC on 3 June 2015 and 10 August 2015 respectively.

“In 2018, the PFD held its 11th elective conference from 13 to 15 in Maseru. The then newly elected committee’s names were filed and submitted to the Law Office and the IEC on 3 May 2018 and 29 May 2018 respectively,” Mr Makhalanyane added.

He even showed this publication a copy of the NEC lists with what appeared to be stamps from the IEC and Law Office stamps.

He also showed a PFD cheque book which he said was used for paying staffers’ salaries. On the allegation that his party had repeatedly failed to submit its symbol to the IEC, he said this was no longer a requirement as it had been repealed by a 2011 government gazette.

Apart from the PFD, the IEC had also named the Kimetso Mathaba-led National Independent Party (NIP) among the parties facing deregistration for allegedly failing to submit its NEC list to the IEC since 2013. NIP first registered with the IEC in April 1998. Its leader, Mr Mathaba, is the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on natural resources.

Other parties also facing deregistration are the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Senkatana, All Democratic Corporation (ADC), Areka ea Baena, the African Unity Movement (AUM), Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP), Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo (LMM), the Lesotho Workers Party and the White Horse Party.

Contacted for comment, IEC Chairperson, Mphasa Mokhochane, would neither confirm nor deny that the IEC was planning to deregister the parties for non-compliance.

He however, hinted that some parties could be deregistered, saying “removing the parties from the register would be the last straw”.

“We are tasked with ensuring that the environment is conducive for all parties to operate and guide them to do as expected by the electoral laws.

“Deregistering the parties would be the last straw and we would only do that after consultations with parties that are not in good standing. It is not something that we could just wake up and do.

“What we are going to do is to summon such parties if there are outstanding issues that need to be ironed out. Only after giving the party leaders enough time to fix their issues, can we act against them,” Mr Mokhochane said.

Senkatana leader, Lehlohonolo Tšehlana, admitted that his party was having challenges meeting the IEC requirements. Mr Tšehlana said he had made the IEC aware of challenges and therefore did not expect to be deregistered.

“My party has problems and the IEC has always been in the light because I have always informed them. Therefore, I don’t think that Senkatana would be struck off the party list just like that without engaging us,” Mr Tšehlana said in an interview with this publication last week.

On his part, Mr Mathaba said, “compliance is a two-way street”.

“The IEC is also not doing as expected. They have not even given us party funding that they ought to have given us to enable us to fund our operations. It is also up to them to carry out inspections to establish whether we have offices or not.

“As far I know, my party’s standing is good although I cannot dismiss that we may have fallen short when it comes to updating certain things as we have had staff changes from time to time.

“Nevertheless, it is the IEC’s responsibility to call us for hearing if there is need for us to clarify anything. We can’t just be struck off the roll because someone feels like it,” Mr Mathaba said.

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