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Battle for BNP reaches Ombudsman

Bongiwe Zihlangu
MASERU — A Basotho National Party (BNP) faction has dragged the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to the Ombudsman for refusing to intervene in the wrangles rocking the former ruling party.
The faction, which includes members recently expelled from the party, wants the Ombudsman to intervene in their fight with the BNP leadership.
The Ombudsman is an official appointed by the government to investigate individuals’ complaints against public authorities.
An Ombudsman can recommend remedies in disputes, summon or institute criminal proceedings against offenders.
Led by former BNP youth league leader Moeketsi Hanyane, the faction is accusing the IEC of reneging on its earlier promise to mediate between them and the party’s executive committee.
The faction is unhappy that the executive, led by former military ruler Metsing Lekhanya, has continued to exclude them from the party’s annual elective conferences.
The disgruntled members, who have openly pushed for Lekhanya’s ouster in the past six months, say they were disenfranchised when they were barred from the 2007, 2008 and last year’s conferences.
They say their exclusion from the conferences had denied them a chance to participate in the election of party leaders.
For this reason, they say, the BNP national executive and its leader were unconstitutionally elected.
They also claim the party had refused to give some of them membership forms and denied others a chance to renew their membership cards.
The faction claims dissenting voices were mostly targeted by the leadership.
Last August the faction asked the IEC to intervene in the intra-party wrangles.
The National Assembly Election Act 1992 empowers the IEC to intervene in political parties that are not run democratically.
The IEC however broke its promise to mediate in the BNP squabbles, according to the faction.
On Wednesday the faction wrote to the Ombudsman seeking intervention “on a matter which the IEC had reneged despite its lawful mandate”.
“We were initially promised by the IEC that it was seized with the matter and ready to intervene accordingly and enforce the law as its duty and mandate,” says the letter, seen by this paper.
“However, following a letter written by Advocate and SC Mr KE Mosito dated December 1 2009, the commission has now reneged on this promise saying that it will not interfere in the affairs of a political party and that it advises that we pursue the matter through our privately appointed mediator.
“It is in the light of the above status quo that we appeal to your good office as a public protector to intervene in this matter . . .”
According to documents seen by this paper, correspondence between the IEC and the BNP faction started on August 28 last year when the faction asked the commission to intervene.
“As you are aware, BNP is registered with the IEC in terms of National Assembly Order of 1992. However, it does not comply with the above-mentioned sections of the law,” the faction wrote.
The letter alleged that during in the BNP’s 2007 and 2009 annual conferences delegates were handpicked instead of being elected, a move which the faction described as unconstitutional according to the National Assembly Order of 1992.
They said the BNP’s women’s and youth leagues were not run democratically as their committees were not elected in line with the party’s constitution.
The IEC should compel the BNP executive to have constituency committee and national committee elections for the youth and women’s leagues, the group requested in its letter. 
On November 1 2009, the IEC’s acting director of elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, wrote a letter to BNP secretary-general Ranthomeng Matete informing him of the request by the disgruntled members.
“It is our considered view that if any of the member/members of a political party registered with the IEC raise concern on the issues that have a bearing on the provisions of the National Assembly Elections Act 1992, the commission is entitled to give them a hearing and afford the other parties being complained about an opportunity to present their side of the story,” wrote Mokhochane.
In the same letter Mokhochane also requested the warring factions to meet at the IEC’s offices on December 4 2009 at 10am.
However, the BNP executive replied through their lawyers indicating that they would not be attending the meeting.
The lawyers said: “We consequently have instructions to bring to your attention as we do hereby do that our client will not attend the session . . .”
The IEC then decided to shelve the issue and asked the faction to look for a private mediator.
The faction’s representative, Adoro Adoro, who also is the signatory in all the correspondence between the disgruntled BNP members and the IEC, told the Sunday Express they were disappointed by the commission’s position.
“We are taking both the IEC and the BNP to the Ombudsman . . . we feel the commission failed in its mandate to help us,” Adoro said.
“The IEC directed us to find a private mediator after the commission failed to come through for us.
“The constitution states clearly that whereby people are not content with the services rendered by government institutions and parastatals they can approach the Ombudsman as their last resort, hence our decision to drag the party and commission there.”
Adoro said all they wanted was transparency in the running of the party.
“We need to be to be transparent when dealing with the affairs of the party and to be afforded the chance to elect our own committees instead of having them imposed on us,” he said.
When contacted, BNP secretary-general Matete said he was not in a position to comment on the latest development since the Ombudsman’s office had not yet been in touch with the party.
“I cannot commit to saying much about the matter as we have not been informed of the matter officially by the Ombudsman,” he said.
“However, every person has a right to seek remedy wherever they feel they can get it.
“I just hope they are approaching institutions with the jurisdiction to preside over the matter.”
Matete confirmed there had been correspondence between the BNP and the IEC regarding complaints by “one Adoro Adoro and the so-called members of the BNP”.
“We responded to those letters not knowing the people referred to since we were never given their names, except for one Adoro Adoro,” he said.
“Whether they are ghosts or tikoloshes (mysterious creatures associated with witchcraft) we will never know.”
According to Matete, the only effective solution for the group would be taking the legal route “for a permanent solution”.
“Instead of running around looking for a solution, why don’t they just approach courts of law?” he said.
“That way the matter can be laid to rest as the courts are guaranteed to deliver a permanent verdict on the matter.”
When contacted for comment, the IEC director of elections denied knowledge of the BNP members’ intention to take the commission to the Ombudsman.
“We have not received the letter and the office of the Ombudsman has not communicated to us about the matter either,” Mokhochane said.
“On that basis I cannot comment any further.
“It will only be after we have been communicated to officially that we will be in a position to address the matter in question.
“But what we will do is to appear before the Ombudsman to hear the charges against us.
“Then we will take it from there.”

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