Workers demand IEC Director’s ouster
BARELY a fortnight after her reinstatement, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Director of Elections, Letholetseng Ntsike, has a fresh headache after more than 100 IEC employees demanded her suspension to facilitate investigations into her fitness to remain in office.
The 128 employees accuse Dr Ntsike of misleading the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January 2019 in relation to the IEC’s new organisational structure which they argue that is discriminatory.
The employees want the IEC to implement a new organisational structure based on the recommendations of a study that was conducted by a consultant, Dr Griffith Zabala, which would see them being promoted and receiving higher salaries.
They allege that instead of implementing the Dr Zabala structure, the IEC has decided to implement another structure which allows it to hire new employees- development that would prejudice them.
They also accuse Dr Ntsike of making misleading the PAC by stating that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service did not approve of the positions they were appointed to in terms of the structure which was proposed by Dr Zabala.
The said in view of her alleged misleading statements to the PAC, it was therefore necessary to suspend Dr Ntsike to facilitate investigations into her fitness to remain in office.
The IEC employees make this and other allegations against Dr Ntsike in a confidential letter they wrote to the United National Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Director, Betty Wabunoha, on 11 November 2019. They wrote to the UNDP in its capacity as the institution which facilitated the engagement of Dr Zabala as a consultant on the IEC’s organisational structure.
The employees’ letter is titled: ‘Critical Perspectives into the decision of Dr Ntsike to deprive employees of IEC the benefits, salaries and entitlements accruing from the approved organisational structure executed by Dr Griffith Zabala’.
In the letter, the employees’ lawyer, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, argues that instead of adopting Dr Zabala’s recommendation, Dr Ntsike approved a different organisational structure which prejudiced his clients.
“They (employees) have been assigned to those positions from 5 December 2013 but to date their remunerations to the promoted positions has been stalled,” Adv Lephuthing states in the letter which was copied to Dr Ntsike, the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Forum of Registered Political Parties.
“As your office would recall, it facilitated the engagement of Dr Zabala for and on behalf of the IEC as a consultant. There is some difficulty with the IEC management. They are refusing to avail the original organisational structure by Dr Zabala.
“They have refused to produce it even after Mr (Tanki) Mothae had directed them to produce it for presentation during deliberations which ensured before Mr Sekoala,” Adv Lephuthing said. Mr Mothae is the principal secretary in the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs.
Mr Sekoala chaired negotiations between the IEC management and the employees aimed at resolving the impasse over the IEC’s organisational structure.
He said instead of producing the a copy of the structure proposed by Dr Zabala, the IEC management produced a “truncated version” which lacked the necessary details to facilitate the payment of arrears due to his clients.
“In our view, it is inappropriate for the IEC management to hide such an important document quite obviously because they are determined to deprive our clients their deserved salaries which derive from the said organisational structure.
“There is a constitutional imperative to maintain the position of parliament and for that to happen we require that there be an IEC headed by a credible Director of Elections and Commissioners. In the present case, we have Dr Ntsike who misled the parliament during her appearance before the Public Accounts Committee around 18 January 2019.
“She testified that the Ministry of Finance and/ or Public Service did not approve of the positions contemplated in the structure by Dr Zabala contrary to the true state of affairs. Our clients are armed with letters of appointment to these positions as envisaged in the organisational structure of Dr Zabala.”
Adv Lephuthing goes on to state that it is a criminal offence for Dr Ntsike to mislead parliament and the nation as she allegedly did.
“In progressive democracies, the misstatements which the Director of Elections have made are enough to warrant her suspension to allow for investigations into her fitness to hold office.
“The expectation must then be that the disciplinary process (against Dr Ntsike) will unfold in compliance with the constitutional imperatives of a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal per section 12 (8) of the constitutional and the panoply of procedural protections of due process provided for in the appointment, disciplinary and removal of errant officers of IEC. We are looking at section 66 A (2) and (3) of the constitution in respect of the powers of IEC to employ and exercise disciplinary control.
“We accordingly demand from her to discover the names of what she calls the ‘management task team’ which formulated the impugned structure that seeks to discriminate against our clients. It is necessary that their names be disclosed so that necessary measures can be taken to assess their credibility and fitness to lead such an important institution like IEC,” Adv Lephuthing states in the letter.
Dr Ntsike only returned to work on 1 November 2019, eight months after being suspended by former IEC commissioners for alleged insubordination.
Dr Ntsike resumed her duties at the troubled electoral body in the aftermath of the Constitutional Court’s 16 October 2019’s dismissal of former IEC commissioners, Justice Mahapela Lehohla (chairperson), Advocate ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Dr Makase Nyaphisi’s application to remain in office until the processes of appointing new commissioners have been finalised.
Dr Ntsike said her “suspension automatically became ineffective after the court ruling” because “the people who suspended me are no longer IEC commissioners”.