Talking development and peace
The government is seeking to amend the Local Government Elections Act of 1998 ahead of polls expected to be held later this year. The Local Government Elections Act Amendment Bill of 2016 seeks to transfer the powers of determining the election period from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to the Prime Minister, through the advice of the Local Government Minister. But this, according to rights group Development for Peace Education (DPE), could be a problem as explained by the organisation’s Peace Education Researcher: Public Participation and Policy Dialogue, ’Mankhatho Selepe, in this interview with Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane.
LT: The Local Government Elections Act Amendment Bill of 2016…what is it all about, in a nutshell?
Selepe: The Local Government Elections Act Amendment Bill of 2016 seeks to amend certain sections of the Local Government Elections Act of 1998. The intention of the Amendment Bill, as stated on the document, is to address administrative issues, which is to close the gap on issues of separation of powers. The Local Government Elections Act of 1998 stipulates that the date or election period for Local Government Councils shall be determined by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). But the Amendment Bill seeks to remove those powers from the Commission. The Bill says the Commission should conduct the elections only, and not determine the poll period. It amends Sections 23, 24 and 25 of the Act which relate to the writ that calls for elections and states the poll timetable. Other than the Bill seeking to remove powers from the Commission to determine the election period, it also affects the tenure of Councils, which is currently five years.
LT: You say it seeks to transfer power but to who? And also, you speak of the tenure of Councils. Could you please elaborate further?
Selepe: The Bill transfers powers from the Commission to the Prime Minister, through the advice of the Local Government Minister. The Bill further provides for the Prime Minister to determine the election period within 12 months beyond the five-year Council term stipulated by the Act. This automatically means Councils’ tenure will be extended until the time the premier calls for the elections after five years.
LT: At what stage is this Amendment Bill?
Selepe: The Bill is currently before the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments Cluster. The committee is working together with stakeholders to include the public’s opinion. It will eventually present a report before parliament, which is the next stage after consulting with all stakeholders.
LT: Where do you come in as the DPE?
Selepe: We come in one of the stakeholders which the committee also needs to consult. At