MASERU — Newly-appointed Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman Mahapela Lehohla said the commission is facing a lot of challenges ahead of the scheduled by-elections next month.
Former Chief Justice Lehohla was speaking at a press conference at the High Court on Wednesday after his inauguration as IEC chairman.
Lehohla said the nation should expect hard work from him and the two newly sworn-in IEC commissioners.
He was inaugurated together with two IEC commissioners, Advocate ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Makase Nyaphisi, a medical doctor and former Ambassador to Germany.
“Since elections are a continuous process, they should be transparent to avoid possible doubts from voters, so we will not relax”, Lehohla said.
He further explained that there are major challenges ahead of the IEC as they have to prepare for the upcoming by-elections in Thaba-Moea and Thaba-Phechela and local government’s 27 electoral divisions.
“The slated by-elections pose a huge challenge as they will reflect on how we perform in the immense duty of running elections in our country”, Lehohla said.
Lehohla said the transitional take off is not an easy one as they commence their work with a huge load of running by-elections.
“With the upcoming by-elections, we will be able assess ourselves to see the extent of our preparedness”, Lehohla said.
Lehohla further stated that the IEC will need to continually visit Thaba-Moea and Thaba-Phechela constituencies to conduct voter education.
Lehohla said they will visit Thaba-Moea on January 30 and Thaba-Phechela on February 4 and 5.
“We have to see the level of voter education across those constituencies”, Lehohla said.
Voter apathy and budget constraints, Lehohla said, were hurdles the IEC had to overcome to ensure the polls reflect the will of the people.
“We need to be acquainted with the state of the budget to ensure that for the financial year, 2014/2015, the IEC has adequate funds to run its contingencies smoothly,” Lehohla said.
“A sound budget is necessary to facilitate registration and ensure it is transparent.”
“The voters’ roll is very outdated and there have been calls for us to embark on a re-registration process to achieve transparency,” Lehohla further said.
However, his appointment has been controversial as he fared poorly in an assessment conducted by consultant firm Quadrant Consulting to examine various candidates who were vying for the IEC posts.
Lehohla, who in years past battled fiercely with Appeal Court President Justice Michael Ramodibedi over seniority, was ranked fourth by Quadrant Consulting in their scorecard out of a short-list of 11.
His scuffle with Ramodibedi dented his image in the eye s of some political parties who accused him of having “run down the judiciary”.
Lehohla’s appointment has effectively cast him into the limelight again as he will now be charged with administering and managing elections in Lesotho.
Pholo was also fiercely opposed by some political parties due to his alleged close links to the Basotho National Party.
The Lesotho People’s Congress had been the most vociferous against Pholo saying her involvement in politics would tarnish the IEC.
INDEPENDENT Electoral Commission chairperson Mahapela Lehohla, left, during the swearing-in ceremony at the High Court in Maseru on Wednesday. High Court registrar Lesitsi Mokeke, centre, looks on as Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi leads the ceremony.