The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s Director of Elections, Letholetseng Ntsike, is back at work, eight months after being suspended by former IEC commissioners for alleged insubordination.
Dr Ntsike resumed her duties at the troubled electoral body on 1 November 2019 in the aftermath of the Constitutional Court’s 16 October 2019’s dismissal of former IEC commissioners, Justice Mahapela Lehohla (chairperson), Advocate ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Dr Makase Nyaphisi’s application to remain in office until the processes of appointing new commissioners have been finalised.
Dr Ntsike told this publication that her “suspension automatically became ineffective after the court ruling” because “the people who suspended me are no longer IEC commissioners”.
“Yes I am back in office,” Dr Ntsike said, adding, “I resumed duties on 1 November 2019”.
“The suspension automatically became ineffective after the court ruling. The people who suspended me are no longer IEC commissioners and therefore there was no one to lift the suspension and therefore it became ineffective after the court ruling,” Dr Ntsike said.
Dr Ntsike was suspended in March by the IEC commissioners, Justice Lehohla, Adv Pholo and Dr Nyaphisi in March 2019 for defying their orders to process payments of their incentives and the salaries of their drivers and secretaries.
Dr Ntsike hit back by saying she could not take orders from the commissioners’ as their mandates had expired in January 2019 and had not been renewed.
Last month, the Constitutional Court bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo Mahase, and Justices Lebohang Molete and Keketso Moahloli, dismissed former IEC commissioners’ application to compel the government to allow them to remain in office until the process of appointing new commissioners has been finalised.
Justice Lehohla, Advocate Pholo and Dr Nyaphisi had filed an application seeking to remain in office in response to the July 2019 Constitutional Court application by the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and two others for the nullification of the appointment of Workplace Solutions as the consultants in the recruitment of new IEC commissioners.
The former commissioners’ contracts expired in January 2019 and the government refused to renew them.
The TRC wants the court to order the recruitment exercise of the new IEC commissioners to be re-done with the active participation of civic groups through a public interviewing process. The TRC also wants a final order which nullifies the appointment of Workplace Solutions as the consultants in the whole recruitment exercise.
The TRC contends that Workplace Solutions was awarded the tender without following proper bidding processes in contravention of the Public Procurement Regulations of 2007. It has been suggested the firm did not even have a tax clearance certificate. The Council of State has been interdicted against advising His majesty King Letsie III to appoint new IEC commissioners pending the finalisation of the TRC and others’ application.
It was on the basis of the TRC’s court application that Justice Lehohla, Advocate Pholo and Dr Nyaphisi approached the Constitutional Court for an order compelling the government to allow them to remain in office until the appointment of new commissioners.
However, Justices Mahase, Molete and Moahloli dismissed their application on 16 October 2019, ruling that the “applicants ceased to be the chairman and commissioners of the IEC in January 2019”.
“The delay in appointing substitute commissioners is not their problem and does not authorise them to litigate as the IEC in this case. A fixed term or appointment comes to an end upon expiry of their period. The fact that applicants stayed in office beyond their stipulated 5 year period does not make it legal; and particularly being aware that their offer to continue as commissioners had been rejected. Any expectation they may have had to continue should have been dispelled by that rejection,” the Constitutional Court ruled.
It was on the basis of the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of the former commissioners’ application to remain in office that Dr Ntsike returned to work on 1 November 2019.