The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) retired Justice Mahapela Lehohla together with IEC’s Commissioners Dr. Makase Nyapisi and Advacate ‘Mamosebi Pholo have filed an urgent application and dragged the government of Lesotho to the High Court over their employment.
Besides the government, the trio is also suing the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, the Council of State, the Budget Controller in the Ministry of Finance, the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General.
According to their notice of motion, the trio is asking the respondents to show cause if any, why the Council of State shall not be restricted and interdicted forthwith from advising His Majesty the King on the appointment of new members of the IEC pending the determination of this application and or any appeal therefrom.
The applicants also want the Budget Controller in the Ministry of Finance to tell the court why he or she shall not be directed and or ordered to facilitate the authorisation of the Acting Director of Elections as the Chief Accounting Officer of the IEC.
The applicants again want the respondents to say why their employment contracts on the one side and the government on the other side shall not be declared to have been renewed for further period of five years, respectively on similar terms and conditions until January 07, 2024 and further why the intended advice to His Majesty the King and the intended resultant appointments of new members of the IEC while the applicants are in office, whether in law or in fact shall not be declared wrongful and unlawful.
The trio also expect the respondents to say why the High Court shall not declare the decisions and acts of the applicants while in office concerning the business and affairs of the Budget Controller in the Ministry of Finance from January 08, 2019 as legal decisions and acts capable of being made or taken by the applicants as members of the IEC.
Alternatively, the applicants want the respondents to show cause why their authorisation to continue in office of members of the IEC pending the appropriate legal measures by appropriate persons for the final determination of their titles to the office of a member of the IEC.
But the IEC has on the other hand distances itself from the court application. The IEC Public Relations Officer (PRO) Tuoe Hantsi said after consulting with the office of the Acting Director of Elections as well as of that of the Human Resource (H.R) about the details of the court case, they claimed not to know anything about such a case in the courts of law against the government.
When pressed for further comment on what was actually happening at the IEC, Hantsi said the problem started when the IEC Commissioners contracts expired on January 07 but continued to stay with IEC despite having been advised to leave the office by the Principal Secretary of Law and Constitutional Affairs as well as the Government Secretary.
Hantsi said suspended Director of Elections Dr. Letholetseng Ntsike was summoned to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as well as the Social Cluster Committee, where she was instructed not to help the commissioners whose contracts have not been renewed with any public coffers as that will be against the financial regulations.
However, he said the commissioners forcefully suspended the Director of Elections with the assistance of the police for insubordination and in the process approached four top management to convince them to act in the position of the Director in vain.
“The four top management cited that they fear that their appointment for the position of Director of Elections would be illegal since it was recommended by the commissioners whose contracts have expired,” he commented.
Nonetheless, he said the fifth top management officer surprisingly accepted the appointment but has since not been given executive powers by the Ministry of Finance the move that has left daily commission’s operations in tatters.
He therefore said since no one seemed to know anything about the court case, it means that IEC knows nothing about it.
On the other hand some of the IEC employees who demanded their identity not to be revealed for fear of reprisals said daily operations of the office are at a standstill, arguing that their morale is low also saying they wonder what the future of the Commission holds for them.
Some of them said they were already looking for jobs as they fear that their future at the commission was not guaranteed.
Justice Lehohla was appointed the chairperson of the IEC together with Dr. Nyaphisi and Advocate Pholo as commissioners were first appointed on January 07, 2014 for a period of five years.
During their term of office they conducted the 2015 snap elections as well as the 2017 general Assembly elections and Local Government elections.