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ABC unhappy with IEC


…as ballot papers are delivered to Maseru this week

Billy Ntaote

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has come under fire from the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) for allegedly side-lining party officials in the printing of ballot papers for the 28 February general elections.

Futho Hoohlo, who represents the ABC in the IEC Data Committee and party leaders’ meetings, questioned last Tuesday’s “real motive” behind Commissioner ‘Mamosebi Pholo’s visit to the Cape Town-based company printing the poll papers.

According to Mr Hoohlo, the commissioner was supposed to have gone with members of the Logistics Committee to witness the printing of the papers and also see if everything was in order. The ballot papers are expected in Maseru on Wednesday this week, but Mr Hoohlo is not happy with the IEC’s “conduct” regarding the printing of the papers.

“Our different political parties are represented in the Logistics Committee to ensure we are in the picture about everything—from the bidding process to printing and packaging and even the delivery of the ballot papers. But we are surprised that the commissioner is in Cape Town on her own, when she should have been accompanied by two members of the Data Committee.

“What’s also disturbing is she even left behind the Logistics Manager who should have been there in Cape Town without fail,” Hoohlo told the Sunday Express on Friday.

He further alleged when he called Advocate Pholo, her mobile phone was on voicemail, and only spoke to her when he contacted the printers through landline.

“She sounded surprised when she realised that it was me on the phone. When I asked her about the visit, she told me the Logistics Committee had made a decision that the Data Committee members would only go to Cape Town to witness the packaging and delivery of the ballot papers and not the printing stages and designs.

“The ABC is concerned that the IEC seems to be doing the critical part of the electoral process on its own, and we suspect there could be some hidden agenda in this secrecy.

“The party suspects we could end-up having ballot papers that are already marked being delivered to Lesotho on 18 February.”

Hoohlo added the ABC had demanded the printing of the ballot papers should be suspended until members of the Logistics Committee had arrived in Cape Town, to no avail.

“The commissioner refused, and said she would only be given orders to stop the printing by the IEC chairman (Justice Mahapela Lehohla).

“We called the chairman who promised to assist, but he didn’t, although we had immediately sent our own people to the factory.

“He had earlier promised to talk to Commissioner Pholo to let our people enter the premises, only to backtrack on this pledge, claiming other political parties would find it suspicious that the ABC had been allowed to visit the factory.”

The Sunday Express was unable to talk to Advocate Pholo as her mobile phone was continually on voicemail.

However, Acting Director of Elections, ‘Mamatlere Matete, refuted Mr Hoohlo’s suggestions that the IEC could have ulterior motives regarding the elections.

“The commissioner had to leave early on 10 February for urgent business at the printing company, which included signing some documents, and proof-reading the ballot papers. The printing has not yet started; these are just preparations for the actual printing to start,” Ms Matete said.

She dismissed allegations that the IEC was side-lining parties in the printing of the ballot papers, adding two Logistics Committee members and two from the Monitoring Committee had since left for Cape Town on Friday.

“The four left Lesotho today, and we wanted them to find the ballot papers fully designed and without any errors, hence they could not go with the commissioner on Tuesday.”

Ms Matete further revealed the Lesotho contingent would be in Cape Town until 18 February when the ballot papers are expected to be delivered to Maseru.

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