Mohalenyane Phakela/Bongiwe Zihlangu
THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has sparked controversy with its quest to strip the Democratic Congress (DC) and Alliance of Democrats (AD) of three proportional representation (PR) seats and one PR seat respectively.
It has petitioned the High Court for an order allowing it to strip the two parties of the seats and reallocate them to the Basotho National Party (BNP), Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP) and United for Change (UFC). It does not say who the fourth seat will be allocated to.
The IEC move has incurred the wrath of some political parties, particularly the BNP and the All Basotho Convention (ABC) who argue that this could be an indication that the entire electoral process and the outcome could be flawed. The two parties have demanded an audit of the elections to establish if there were no irregularities which could have compromised the polls which were convincingly won by business mogul Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP).
In its court papers filed yesterday, the electoral body argues that it had erroneously allocated the four seats to the DC and AD.
The IEC had allocated 11 PR seats to the Mathibeli Mokhothu-led DC which had won a paltry 18 out of 80 seats in the recent 7 October general elections. The electoral body had also allocated three PR seats to Monyane Moleleki’s AD which had only won two seats. With its total of five seats, the AD subsequently agreed a deal to form a governing coalition with the RFP which won a landslide 56 out of 80 seats. The other party in the incoming governing coalition is Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC) which has a total of four seats. Should the IEC application succeed, the DC will be the hardest hit by the loss of the three seats. Its numbers will come down to 26 seats and this could affect its chances of influencing any decisions in parliament.
The AD has not even bothered to challenge the IEC move to strip it of one PR seat. This is probably because the loss of the seat would not affect the formation of the RFP-led governing coalition or the AD’s standing as a member of the incoming government. The coalition would still have a combined 64 seats- just enough to form government.
The IEC and its director of elections, Mpaiphele Maqutu, are the first and second applicants respectively in the application.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, the Clerk of the National Assembly, His Majesty King Letsie III, the DC, the AD, Morapeli Motoboli, ‘Malisema Letsoepa, Katleho Mosotho, Maboiketlo Maliehe, Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa and Lebohang Mochaba are the first to 11th respondents respectively.
Motoboli, Letsoepa and Mosotho are the three DC members who were “erroneously” allocated the PR seats while Mochaba was “erroneously” allocated a PR seat under the AD banner. Maliehe had erroneously been cited as the beneficiary of the AD PR seat when in actual fact the recipient was Mochaba. The IEC then filed an interlocutory application to include Mochaba in the list of respondents.
The case had been expected to start at 2:30pm yesterday but the court gates were still locked at that time. At about the 3pm, the gates were opened but only lawyers and the media were allowed to enter. DC supporters were made to wait for the arrival of the police who would maintain law and order during the court proceedings. The case eventually got underway at about 4pm. The IEC’s lawyer, Kabelo Letuka, told Judge ‘Mafelile Ralebese that the electoral body had on 20 October 2022 discovered that it had made some errors in allocating the PR seats. Therefore, it had to come to court to seek an order allowing it to rectify its mistakes, Advocate Letuka said.
Adv Motiea Teele, who represented the DC, agreed with Adv Letuka that the matter should be swiftly dealt with. The two lawyers then proposed that the application should be heard on 28 October 2022. In between the two parties would file other papers pertaining to the case. Their request was granted by Justice Ralebese.
“The matter will be heard on expeditious basis as agreed by the parties. The matter will be heard by a panel constituted by the Chief Justice (Sakoane Sakoane) on 28 October 2022,” Justice Ralebese said.
In his founding affidavit, the IEC’s acting director of elections, Lehlohonolo Suping, states that the electoral body IEC had erroneously included the RFP and the National Independent Party (NIP) votes while calculating the PR seats. This error, he says, had resulted in the DC and AD getting the extra four seats which the two parties should not have been allocated. The NIP won one seat. Both it and the RFP were not allocated any PR seats. However, Mr Suping does not explain how the inclusion of the RFP and NIP votes in the calculations resulted in the DC and AD being erroneously awarded the seats they did not deserve.
“I aver that when the applicant (IEC) made calculations of seats of the parties that were entitled to compensatory seats following the 7 October general elections results, it erroneously did not exclude the total party votes cast in favour of Revolution for Prosperity and the National Independent Party. That error resulted in the fourth respondent (DC) being awarded three more compensatory seats than it was entitled to and the fifth respondent (AD) being awarded one more compensatory seat than it was not entitled to.
“I verily aver that the above explained compensatory seats allocation error was noticed by applicants on 20 October 2022, when it conducted the review of its work following the 7 October 2022 general elections. I humbly request the honourable court to grant the application and discard the allocation,” Mr Suping prays in his application.
Should the application be granted, Mr Suping states that three of the seats will be reallocated to the BNP, UFC and BPP. He does not say which party will be allocated the fourth seat.
The BNP is led by outgoing Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe. The BPP is led by outspoken former cabinet minister, Tefo Mapesela. The UFC is led by Harvest FM radio owner, ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba. Should the IEC application succeed, the BNP will increase its seats to two, while the BPP and UFC will finally be represented in parliament with a seat each. Most likely these will be allocated to Mr Mapesela and Ms Lekhoaba.
Unless there is a last minute change, the hearing of the case on Friday is unlikely to stop the swearing in of Mr Matekane as prime minister on the same day.
Outgoing Government Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, yesterday said he had not even been informed of any impediment to the swearing in ceremony hence everything would go ahead as planned.
“The IEC will notify us in a form of a gazette or serve us with court papers if there is anything which will affect the inauguration of the new prime minister,” Mr Pheko said.