Workers plead for temp Commissioners

Workers plead for temp Commissioners

MASERU-WORKERS at the troubled and broke Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have pleaded with Parliament to appoint temporary commissioners to steady the institution.

The workers said this barely a week after the government appointed Lebeko Sello, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, as the IEC’s interim chief accounting officer.
They however said Sello, in terms of the constitution, cannot perform the duties of the commissioners despite having a title of chief accounting officer.

Pontšo Matlere, the electoral operations officer, said the institution has been in crisis since January 2019 when the contracts of the three commissioners ended.
“We need three temporary commissioners,” Matlere said.
“This year in June the directors’ contracts lapsed. According to the constitution, section 66, the IEC commission is the one to appoint directors and even officers.”

She told parliament’s Law and Public Safety Cluster that they want “relevant institutions to implement the section that allows for the appointment of a temporary commission until a permanent one is established”.

“No one gets benefits due to the absence of the commission. There are many vacancies that need to be filled.”
She said there is supposed to be a continuous registration of voters but they “cannot stop or start anything without the blessing from the commission”.
“We reviewed the constituencies afresh but since the commission is not there the issue cannot be completed,” she said.
“We were given a lot of money to review the constituencies but the absence of a commission has stopped everything.”

She said Sello’s appointment “as the IEC chief accounting officer is problematic because he is a political appointee”.
“The IEC must be free and autonomous so the PS is a political appointee,” she said.

“Having a chief accounting officer is of little help because some duties need the commission.”
She also said now they do not even have internet or phones, “we cannot even engage in Zoom meetings due to insufficient funds”.
A member of the committee, the Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s Dr Mahali Phomotse, said it is wrong that the IEC’s matter is being solved in the cabinet.

“Giving a principal secretary those duties is also a crime,” Phomotse said.
The committee’s chairman, Lekhetho Mosito, said the committee will request the Prime Minister to ask him to “consult political parties and ask for the way forward”.

Mosito said they will also advise the prime minister to appoint temporary commissioners.
He said the committee will ask the Court of Appeal to reopen early to hear the case in which the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), an ecumenical lobby group, is challenging the appointment of new commissioners.
The appeal came after the Constitutional Court ruled that the TRC had no legal standing to bring the case.

That appeal has stalled the appointment of new commissioners to replace retired Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla, Dr Makase Nyaphisi and Advocate ’Mamosebi Pholo who were pushed out after they lost their battle for new contracts.
Normally the Court of Appeal sits in April and October every year.
IEC workers say they cannot wait until October.

Nkheli Liphoto

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