Mohalenyane Phakela/Pascalinah Kabi
A FRIDAY Council of State meeting that was scheduled to debate and recommend the final list of Independent Electoral Commissioners (IEC) commissioners to His Majesty King Letsie III was aborted at the last minute due to a High Court interim court order.
The Council of State had organised the meeting to compile a list of three candidates to be recommended to His Majesty King Letsie III for appointment to the IEC.
The trio was meant to be selected from a list of five candidates namely Tšoeu Petlane, Fako Likoti, Mphasa Mokhochane, ‘Matlali Mapetla and Karabo Mokobocho.
However, the meeting was aborted at the last minute after civic organisation Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) secured an interdict barring the Council of State and His Majesty King Letsie III from appointing the three IEC commissioners.
The High Court on Thursday issued the interim order blocking the Council of State and His Majesty King Letsie III from appointing the chairperson and the commissioners of the IEC until the matter challenging the appointment is heard on Wednesday.
The interdict was granted to TRC, Maieane Khaketla and African Ark by Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi.
The Council of State, His Majesty, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Work Place Solutions, the IEC, the Attorney General and 28 political parties are cited as the first to 35th respondents respectively.
Justice Monaphathi’s interdict blocks the State Council and His Majesty from appointing the heads of the electoral body or performing any activities relating to the appointment.
“The first and second respondents are interdicted, prohibited and restrained from proceeding with the appointment of the chairman and commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission pending the finalisation of the matter,” the interim interdict reads.
The court ordered that: “A rule nisi is hereby issued and made on 3 July 2019 calling upon the respondents to show cause why (if any) why the orders sought herein shall not be granted”.
Other prayers sought by the applicants are that the nullification of the awarding of the appointment tender to Work Place Solutions and that TRC be allowed to participate in the appointment of the IEC.
The other reliefs sought that the court should declare appointment of Workplace Solutions as the consultancy firm for the recruitment of the chairperson and commissioners of IEC null “and of no force and legal effect”.
They also asked the court to declare the decision to deny the TRC a right to participate and access the deliberations of the sub-committee or a body of registered political parties for the selection and recruitment or IEC commissioners unconstitutional.
The TRC also asked the court to declare Workplace Solutions’ views, findings and recommendations in respect to the shortlisted candidates null.
The civic organisation also prayed to the court to order the DCEO to investigate the circumstances surrounding the award of the tender in favour of Workplace Solutions.
A source close to the proceedings said: “Members of the Council of State were told earlier today (Friday) that the meeting couldn’t go ahead with its business because of a court order barring them from going ahead with the final processes of appointing IEC commissioners”.
The source added: “Ntate (Mothetjoa) Metsing was supposed to be part of that meeting but had to attend a (wool and mohair farmers’) protest march after they were told that they could not go ahead with selection process”.
Another source said that the Council of State members were already seated at the palace building on Friday when they were informed that the business of appointing new IEC commissioners had been suspended indefinitely because of the court interdict.
“We were informed that the business had been suspended indefinitely because of a court case that was been filed by the TRC. So we don’t know for how long we will have to wait until the matter has been finalised by the courts,” the source said.
Council of State Private Secretary Monehela Phosholi refused to comment on the matter when contacted for comment on Friday.
“You people should stop calling me… What do you want to talk about? No, I cannot talk to you people about the business of the Council of State,” Mr Phosholi said before abruptly terminating the call.
The controversy in the recently started process of recruiting new commissioners of the IEC started last week after two of the 10 shortlisted candidates, Sofonea Shale and Seabata Motsamai, who could not attend planned oral interviews on 19 and 20 June 2019, because they were away in Denmark, demanded to be included in the process failing which they would consider court action.
Messrs Shale and Motsamai insisted that the recruitment consultant — Workplace Solutions — had arranged to interview them via Skype but had subsequently reneged on the deal under pressure from politicians.
The two prominent activists eventually wrote to the Council of State and the Political Leaders’ Forum, both responsible for overseeing the recruitment process, demanding to be interviewed like the other eight other shortlisted candidates. The other eight are Michael Ramodibedi, Thekiso Khati, Fako Likoti, ‘Matlali Mapetla, Booi Mohapi, Mphasa Mokhachane, Karabo Mokobocho and Tšoeu Petlane.
The TRC, one of Lesotho’s prominent civic groups, also wrote to the Government Secretary (GS), Moahloli Mphaka, protesting the exclusion of the public and civic society in the recruitment process saying that would open it to manipulation.