MASERU – THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is under a barrage of attacks for its mistake in calculating the allocation of Proportional Representation (PR) seats. Accused of malice and incompetence, the commission has been in crisis mode since it discovered the mistake. It is a mistake that the IEC is now trying to resolve through legal means. thepost this week spoke to the IEC’s Director of Elections, Advocate Mpaiphele Maqutu.
Please explain the mistake that you are now trying to rectify. What happened?
This was the first time under the Electoral Act of 2011 that a political party or political parties that had won constituency seats were not entitled to PR seats.
The last time this happened was in 2002 but it was under a different electoral law.
The mistake this time happened because the law was not applied in full.
A critical stage in the calculation of the allocation was not applied.
We were supposed to exclude the votes of two, which were not entitled to PR seats, from the total number of votes to get a new threshold to allocate the seats.
That didn’t happen. Instead, we used the global figure that included the numbers of those two parties.
At what point was the mistake discovered?
After an election, we try to have a comprehensive self-evaluation of how we fared as an organisation.
We do that exercise when things are still fresh, meaning immediately after an election. It is during that process that we picked up the mistake.
How was the mistake discovered?
It was during the same platform that I alluded to earlier. We admit that a mistake was made and it is highly regrettable.
I think the process we are going through is better than sitting with a mistake and allowing a wrong to continue to avoid the backlash we are getting now.
I must however point out that this was not an IEC’s mistake alone. We were working with representatives of all 65 political parties who were part of the election committee.
One would expect that political representatives know the rules of the game and are conversant with the electoral law.
How did political parties react when you told them of the mistake?
As soon as we discovered the mistake we called all the leaders of political parties and explained the situation.
We thought there would be a backlash from them but they were very understanding because they could see this was a genuine mistake.
They could see that there was no malice or ill-intention on our part.
But, judging by the responses on radio stations, the mood has obviously changed.
Yes, the situation appears to have changed after some of the leaders went back to their supporters.
We now hear that some of the supporters are now saying the leaders betrayed them by accepting that a mistake was made.
Some of the leaders appear to be blaming us as well. But I can assure the nation that this was a genuine mistake and we deeply regret it.
Who should be held accountable for this mistake?
The calculation was done by the IEC and the elections committee made up of representatives from all political parties. We all agreed on the calculation.
We should also remember that the political parties already knew the results even before they were officially announced because they have representatives at all election stations across the country.
They also had an idea of what the PR seats would look like. We then had a closed meeting where the allocation was discussed and we agreed to announce them.
We were all sure that the numbers were correct. There was no doubt.
Some are asking why it took the IEC nearly two weeks to pick up such a serious mistake.
It is easy to point fingers when mistakes happen. We should be mindful of the fact that this was a joint effort for which we take collective responsibility.
Some of the people who are now pointing fingers were part of the committee that endorsed both the calculation and the allocation.
We could have kept quiet about this and avoided the backlash we are getting now but that would not have been right.
We welcome the backlash because we made the mistake. We would rather be criticised for trying to correct a mistake than being pilloried for trying to hide it.
This was a genuine mistake and we are trying to correct it.
Have you investigated to find out what went wrong and who could be responsible for the mistake?
Our investigation has been thorough because we wanted to understand if there was any malice or ill-intention.
I can assure you that there is none whatsoever. As director of elections, I do not do the calculations myself.
There is a team that does that. But having looked at what happened I do not doubt that this was a genuine mistake.
It would therefore be disingenuous for me to turn around and point fingers at the team.
But were those calculations not within the scope of one of the service providers responsible for the IEC’s data?
It was. I could turn around and say maybe they should have made sure that the calculations and formula were applied correctly.
But then we also did our own parallel calculations that should have still picked this mistake.
We were happy with our own calculations. This was just an unfortunate mistake.
We however take solace from the fact that those miscalculations did not have a significant bearing on the election outcome.
In saying this, I am not trying to minimise the mistake. It was a grave mistake that should never happen again.
The consequences of this mistake could have been disastrous. What measures have you implemented to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
The first step is this self-evaluation that is happening now. The second is to increase the participation of civil society and other stakeholders in the electoral process.
We have seen that even though political parties claim to know the law and the process we still need to have checks and balances to avoid misrepresentations and mistakes.
We will also have a detailed and clear process mapping in terms of how we deal with the issue of results so that it’s not just a question of recollection from memory but have the steps documented in clear form.
This will ensure that there are clear steps to follow in line with the different scenarios that may arise.
SR mob attacks journalist
MASERU – TŠENOLO FM presenter, Abiel Sebolai, was allegedly beaten and injured by a mob of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) supporters on Saturday.
Sebolai said the mob, which he suspected was drunk, attacked him with fists, sticks and stones.
He said the group was enraged after he tried to take pictures of their cars which belonged to the Ministry of Local Government
Sebolai told thepost that he had gone to Thaba-Tseka with the Thaba-Moea MP, Puseletso Lejone Paulose, on a work trip when he spotted a group of people clad in SR regalia riding in the government vehicle, hoisting beer bottles.
“We were in Mantšonyane when I saw the Local Government vehicle full of men and women with bottles of beer in their hands,” Sebolai said.
“I saw that the majority were wearing Socialist Revolutionaries regalia.”
He wanted to talk about the abuse of government vehicles on his programme the next day.
“I then took out my phone to capture a few pictures and a video,” he said.
He said just as he started taking pictures, the vehicle made a U-turn and approached him.
“The driver came to me and asked me what I was doing with my phone,” he said.
He said he told the driver that there was nothing wrong with taking pictures as a journalist.
“The person I was with reprimanded him and he attempted to walk away only to turn back and punch me.”
“After the first punch, I retaliated by throwing a punch too. I managed to hit him hard and he fell.”
He said the group then jumped off the car and started assaulting him with stones and sticks.
Sebolai said he tried to flee but was stopped by the “stones that were coming to me like rain until I was hit and fell”.
“What nearly took my life was a stone that was thrown while I was falling. It hit me on the forehead and from then I went blind.”
“They were insulting me so much.”
Sebolai said he was helped by a Good Samaritan who risked his life to drag him into his vehicle.
“From there I was taken to the clinic in Lesobeng before an ambulance took me to Mantšonyane Hospital.”
“I went to the Mantšonyane police station where I found the same Local Government vehicle parked,” he said.
“I am told that the Local Government Minister instructed it to be impounded and my assailants arrested.”
He complained that he was injured while doing his work “but the Ministry (of Communications) and MISA are silent about my attack”.
The SR spokesman, Thabo Shao, told thepost that they received a report about the incident and the party does not “condone that behaviour”.
“I hear arrests are not yet made, those people should be arrested,” he said.
The MISA director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said the board will soon meet to discuss the matter and call the victim before issuing a statement.
“We are going to work it out and then issue a condemnation,” Ntsukunyane said.
Infighting rocks BNP
MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) has become the latest party to be rocked by infighting triggered by its dismal performance in the October election.
As the party grapples to come to terms with its thumping defeat bigwigs have been pelting each other with blame for the poor performance.
So intense is the internal feuding that the party is now said to be on the verge of implosion.
In the tug of war is the party’s secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, who this week fired a salvo at party leader Machesetsa Mofomobe.
Hanyane told a press conference on Tuesday that Mofomobe should accept the blame for leading the party to its worst election defeat in history.
He said instead of taking responsibility as a leader, Mofomobe is blaming him for the dismissal performance.
Mofomobe has however fired back, accusing Hanyane of being rebellious.
“It has been a while since I have been shouldering the blame for the general election’s poor results,” Hanyane said, adding that Mofomobe has been instigating his supporters to insult him.
He said the party did not perform well because it didn’t have money to campaign.
He said the BNP did not get its share of the political campaign funding from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) because it failed to account for what it received in the 2015 election.
Out of the M175 000 that the BNP was supposed to get from the IEC, it got only M15 000 as campaign funds, Hanyane said.
He also said those in the past BNP national executive committee, of which Mofomobe was a member, did not account for the campaign funding received in 2017.
“As a result, our party failed to secure M111 000.”
Hanyane said because of the financial problems the party used rentals from its BNP Centre to fund the rallies in Maputsoe, Quthing, Mafeteng and Teya-Teyaneng.
He said this was the first time since 1993 that the party could not afford to print campaign regalia.
Hanyane also said the national executive committee is chaotic under Mofomobe’s leadership.
“They accuse other members of sabotage, which shows a lack of cooperation in the party.”
Mofomobe, Hanyane added, spent more time mocking other party leaders instead of advancing the BNP’s values and policies.
He said instead of pleading with members of other parties to vote for the BNP, Mofomobe called them “idiots beyond redemption”.
No wonder, Hanyane said, people turned against the party.
He said Mofomobe was not ashamed to use valuable campaign time to mock leaders who own aeroplanes.
“He said their aeroplanes were made of cardboxes, and that was his campaign message,” he said.
He also said the BNP supporters were put off by Mofomobe’s close relations with
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu.
“That issue did not sit well with some party supporters and followers in constituencies,” Hanyane said.
He said Mofomobe angered the chiefs and the church, the party’s traditional pillars.
“The chiefs regarded our party as one of the parties that were fighting them and the church too, those are the pillars of the party.”
He said Mofomobe should “go back and apologise to the chiefs and the church for hurting them”.
“The leadership should also apologise to the members where they did wrong.”
Mofomobe however said Hanyane will face the music for organising a press conference without the national executive committee’s approval.
“The party will meet as soon as possible to take internal measures against the secretary general for doing what he did,” Mofomobe said.
He accused Hanyane of ignoring his orders.
“I told him to go on radio to campaign for the Stadium Area elections but he refused and I ended up going there myself,” Mofomobe said.
He said he will not hate Mokhothu without a valid reason.
“I will not hate him just because people want me to hate him,” he said.
He also stated that although they work well with Mokhothu he has his own reservations that include the DC’s support for Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been wallowing in remand prison for the past five years as he goes through trial for murder, attempted murders and treason charges.
The DC is on record pushing for the withdrawal of charges against Lt Gen Kamoli.
Mofomobe said he is not the first BNP leader to work with congress parties as Leabua Jonathan, the party founder, once worked with Basutoland Congress Party (BCP)’s Pokane Ramoreboli who he made justice minister.
Rogue soldier loses bid to save job
MASERU – A soldier who insulted his superior for stopping him from joining a crowd that later killed a civilian during a drunken fit of anger at a bar has lost his bid to overturn his dismissal from the army.
The Court of Appeal last week ruled that army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, followed the law to the letter when he fired Private Lehlohonolo Alotsi.
The case was before the President of the Court of Appeal, Professor Kananelo Mosito, Justices Phillip Musonda and November Mtshiya.
The court found that on Christmas Day of 2018, Alotsi, together with nine other soldiers, was on patrol at the Ha-Peete Military Base.
They went to a local bar and ended up staying outside the barracks until after 10pm, which is the prescribed time for soldiers to be back inside the barracks. A fight broke out at the bar between the soldiers and some civilians.
The soldiers went back to the barracks and ordered their superior, one Corporal Thabi, to hand over some riffles to them. Corporal Thabi ordered them not to go but his orders were ignored.
Alotsi told the court that he did not go but admitted that he used abusive language against his superior. Thereafter there was a shootout at the bar leading to the death of a civilian. Some civilians were also injured in the shootout.
On New Year’s Eve Alotsi and his co-accused appeared before Presiding Officer, Major Lekoatsa, for summary trial relating to military offences they had committed at Ha-Peete. They all pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them.
Alotsi was charged with disobedience, acting in a disorderly manner, and using inappropriate language to a superior officer. Major Lekoatsa found him guilty and sentenced him to 80 days in detention.
He was also severely reprimanded. Major Lekoatsa told Alotsi that he had 14 days within which to appeal against the sentence.
Alotsi did not challenge both the conviction and sentence at that time and only did so when Lt Gen Letsoela wrote him a letter saying he should give reasons why he should not be fired.
It was during this time when he revealed that Major Lekoatsa had coerced him to confess even though he was not involved in committing the crimes, apart from disrespecting his superior.
In his letter to Lt Gen Letsoela, Alotsi apologised for being out of the barracks beyond 10pm, saying he did not do it intentionally.
“My intention was still to make it back on time but being human, I got carried away,” he pleaded.
“General Sir,” he continued, “here I give a full account of the truth.”
He told the army boss that there was a fight that broke out at a bar and he had no idea how it started and how it ended.
He said they ran back to the barracks to ask for guns to rescue one Private Ramarou.
“I, Pvt Alotsi, was never given a gun, the guns were given to Private Teolo and Private Khoaisanyane,” he said.
“Commander Lesotho Defence Staff, General Sir, I yet again implore you for mercy as I had been in an unwarranted exchange with Corporal Tlhabi, where it appears that I insulted him,” he pleaded.
“I am not a vulgar person at all. I am a soldier who respects a lot, I follow orders,” he said.
“Corporal Tlhabi was ordering me to not go back with the soldiers to go get Private Ramarou. I indeed stayed behind.”
“I deeply apologise, General, Sir.”
The court found that Lt Gen Letsoela has prerogative to fire any soldier or officer if in his judgment his continued service “is not in the best interests of the Defence Force” or the soldier “has been convicted of a civil or military offence”.
“Depending on the gravity of the offence, (the army commander), even in a situation where a soldier is pardoned, (may) still proceed to discharge him or her,” the court said.
“There is no dispute that the offences committed were serious and obviously offended the standing ethics of the force.”
Alotsi had taken the commander to the High Court saying he was being punished twice. The High Court dismissed his application, leading to this appeal.
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