Why IEC director is in trouble

Why IEC director is in trouble

MASERU – THERE was drama at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) when a suspended director refused to leave office and police had to be called to take her out.
Dr Letholetseng Ntsike, who is the director of elections, was on Monday abruptly suspended by the three IEC commissioners whose contracts have expired.

Retired Justice Mahapela Lehohla, Advocate ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Dr Makase Nyaphisi are still clinging to their jobs nearly two months after their contracts expired. They say they are not leaving as yet because they are waiting for the employer to renew their contracts.
But while their positions remain uncertain the commissioners have stopped giving orders and are demanding full benefits.
And they seem prepared to come down hard on any IEC official who tries to block them.

Dr Ntsike is now on suspension after she refused to obey their orders to pay their benefits.
The commissioners became livid after Dr Ntsike told them she would not pay their benefits until they have contracts or at least letters from the Council of State, the appointing authority, confirming that their contracts are on the way and they should remain in office.

Memos have been flying back and forth between the commissioners who are digging in their heels and Ntsike who stubbornly refused to yield to their demands. There was a spectacle on Monday afternoon when Dr Ntsike refused to vacate her office, arguing that the commissioners had no authority to suspend her because they do not have valid contracts.

The commissioners then called three police officers who escorted her out of the office.
Matters came to a head at around 11am on Monday when Dr Ntsike received her suspension letter.
Dr Ntsike says she was still contemplating a response to the letter when an IEC security officer came to her office at 12:30pm to tell her that the commissioners want her out of the building within 30 minutes (by 1pm).

She immediately went to the commissioners to ask why they wanted her to leave by 1pm when their letter did not say so.
“Ntate Lehohla said in fact they had given me more than enough time because the letter says I should leave immediately. He said ‘immediately’ means now,” Ntsike says.

She went back to her office and started paying suppliers.
At around 1:30pm the security officer came to her office to remind her that she should have left the office by now.
“I said I had changed my mind and I am not leaving the office. He said I should tell that to the commissioners because they are asking him why I was still around.”

Ntsike went to Justice Lehohla and Dr Nyaphisi to tell them that she was not leaving.
She says she told them that as far as she knows they are the ones who don’t have contracts and they should leave office.
Ntsike said the commissioners told her to write her response.

“As I was walking to my office I saw the IEC security officer and about four security guards rushing to my office. I locked myself in the office. Then they started banging on the door. They kept banging.”
She says she refused to open and instead called an IEC official to witness what was happening.

At around 5pm police officers from the Maseru Central police station arrived in the company of Dr Nyaphisi.
“When I opened the door Dr Nyaphisi told me that the police officers were my visitors and left the office. The officers said they had been sent by their boss to remove her because I am resisting. They said they didn’t want any drama.”

“I then packed my things but refused to hand over the keys to the police. I gave them to Ntate Lehohla.”
The commissioners’ letter to Ntsike cites “insubordination” as the reason for her suspension.
They said she “vehemently refused to take the Commissioners’ instructions”.

“This resulted in two of the officers attached to the office of the Chairperson (Justice Lehohla) not being paid their salaries for two months and Commissioners’ cell phones being cut because you could not effect payment on the usage of the same,” said the letter written by Justice Lehohla on the commissioners’ behalf.

The letter is silent on the duration of the suspension and when she is supposed to come for a disciplinary hearing. It only says the suspension will remain “in force until the matter has been finalised”.
Ntsike’s troubles appear to have started after a meeting with the commissioners on February 5.

At that meeting she asked the commissioners how she should handle their benefits now that their contracts have not been renewed.
The commissioners followed up that meeting with a memo reiterating that “the issue of our contracts extension is being dealt with by the relevant authorities with the urgency it deserves”.

They insisted that they are legally in office despite the fact that their contracts have not been renewed.
As proof that their contracts were being processed, the commissioners attached their correspondences with the Council of State’s secretary, Monehela Posholi, who is also the senior private secretary to His Majesty.

thepost has seen the letter from Posholi, dated January 21, and it only says the Council of State is seeking clarification on the commissioners’ request to be granted another five-year term.

“This is to kindly inform the IEC commissioners that immediately upon receipt of the aforementioned correspondence, the office of the Government Secretary was duly contacted and requested to offer clarification on the matter,” Posholi said.
In their February 5 memo to Ntsike the commissioners said it is on the basis of Posholi’s letter and other correspondences that “we are still in office and performing our duties”.

“You are therefore instructed to accord the Commission the rights and privileges (in toto) they have in execution of their mandate as commissioners,” the commissioners said.

Ntsike had another meeting with the commissioners on February 19, at which she again asked them to clarify their status.
A day later she told the commissioners, in a memo, that despite their response she was not going to pay their benefits unless they have valid contracts or confirmation from the employer.

Ntsike said she had sought clarification from the government secretary “so as to avoid taking an uninformed conduct in exercising contractual rights towards you”.
She said she had considered using the letter from Posholi as the basis for paying their benefits because she was advised that “it is enough to stand legal challenges”.

Ntsike however said she had a change of heart after she appeared before the Public Accounts Committee and was told that the document “has no legal standing and hence I was advised to seek clarification from the employer”.
“I was expecting from the employer to get a side letter spelling out conditions of continuing bargaining and subsequent resolution if any, but in vain,” she said.

“This signaled my discontent hence I called a meeting to appeal to the expressed confirmation of your employment to make you aware of the implications of what you are directing.”

Ntsike appeared to be appealing to the commissioners to see the issue from her perspective. She said she understands that she has a professional obligation to act in the best interests of the IEC and did not want to make a decision that may compromise her duty to the institution.

She said she while she knows that she is expected to follow orders from the commissioners she also knows that “I should now be expected or requested a directive that does not bear legal stand”.

Ntsike said told the commissioners that she was not withholding all their benefits because she has “not received any formal notification or even a positive indication from the employer to the effect that your contracts are in the process of renewal”.
The response from the commissioners was an instant suspension.

thepost understands that apart from paying their benefits the commissioners were also pushing Ntsike for per diems for Dr Nyaphisi and Justice Lehohla who are scheduled to travel for a workshop in Cape Town. This is also not the first time that Ntsike has clashed with the commissioners. In 2016 the commissioners asked her to explain why disciplinary charges could not be brought against her.

One of the ten allegations in the letter was that she was not submitting electoral reports. Ntsike responded but the matter did not go any further.

Staff Reporter

Previous Two brothers gunned down
Next Legal opinion could scuttle commissioners’ bid for new term

About author

You might also like

News

How MKM will pay you back

MASERU – THE liquidators of MKM are seeking High Court approval for a deal they believe will bring closure to the MKM fiasco. The arrangement involves the formation of a new

News

CCL defends Rantle

MASERU – The Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) has defended its decision to accept the newly formed Wesleyan Methodist Church led by Reverend Daniel Rantle. This follows complaints by members of

News

The ‘thankless task’ of being MP

MASERU – IT’S a thankless, frustrating job. What complicates his task as MP is that there are no resources that are availed by the government to get the job done.And so