Angry IEC official threatens to use witchcraft

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Incensed by relentless bickering at the electoral supervisory body, a top Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) official has threatened to deal with colleagues plotting his downfall “like a Mosotho man” – by consulting a traditional healer.

IEC acting director of elections, Lebohang Bulane, yesterday threatened to strike back at his enemies, especially those backstabbing him.

The bristling Bulane’s ire was raised after someone vandalised his official car in the IEC parking lot.

This seems to have spooked Bulane who has vowed to get even, by fair or foul means.

Bulane told Public Eye at IEC headquarters that all sorts of “coup d’état activities” were underway in the organisation as some officers were actively plotting against him.

“On Wednesday evening I found my official car’s three tyres deflated. This was an inside job because the car was parked in the IEC parking lot. I did not report the matter to the police; I will deal with it my way, like a Mosotho man. I will go to a traditional doctor.

“There were some two thugs who stole my private car. One is dead now as we speak while the other one has a mental disorder. The same will happen to the people who deflated my car’s tyres,” he added.

This bizarre threat comes in the midst of an impasse between three IEC commissioners who are hard-pressed to explain why they are still at the commission when their contracts expired in January, and the government.

The three commissioners; chairperson Justice Mahapela Lehohla, Dr Makase Nyaphisi and Advocate ’Mamosebi Pholo; came under the spotlight in early March when they abruptly suspended IEC director of elections, Dr Letholetseng Ntsike, for alleged insubordination.

Ntsike was suspended after she refused to obey orders to pay their benefits.

She reportedly told the trio to produce new contracts or letters from the appointing authority endorsing their continued stay in office.

“I was on leave when Dr Ntsike was suspended, and the commission talked to the human resources manager Mr Jobo Rampeta to act in that position, but he allegedly indicated that he could not.

“The commissioners then appointed me, but I am convinced now that there are some people who are against my appointment,” Bulane told Public Eye.

“According to the IEC’s sequential hierarchy, we have the commissioners, then the director of elections, information technology manager – which is myself substantively, chief legal officer, human resources manager, civic and voter education manager, manager electoral operations, finance manager and finally logistics manager.

“In terms of the seniority system, when the director of elections is absent, the IT manager can act in that position or human resource manager can act if both director and IT manager are absent. This means my appointment is above board because I am the most senior manager after the director,” he added.

However, according to Bulane, some of his colleagues were unhappy with his appointment and launched a spirited campaign to block his ascendancy.

“I cannot say which ministries they went to, to block my appointment but they went to several ministries. Their misplaced argument is that the commissioners’ contracts have expired and therefore do not have powers to appoint me to act. Very unfortunately some government officials have bought into this story.

“Even some junior IEC officers have bought into this story and one of the junior officers who works in the public relations office went to a local radio station to say the commissioners do not have power to appoint (me). It was even a hassle to get an official car but eventually I got one,” narrated Bulane.

In March, government secretary Moahloli Mphaka told Public Eye that IEC chairperson Lehohla was “pathetic” for refusing to leave office even after his contract had expired.

Lehohla, in turn, said Mphaka was a loose cannon instigating mutiny at the IEC with his “reckless public statements”.

Local rights group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) yesterday said it had observed “with shock” the impasse between the IEC commissioners and the government “which has recently spilled into the courts of law, wherein the commissioners seek five years’ contract renewals”.

TRC human rights officer Advocate Lepeli Moeketsi told reporters that prior to the expiry of their contracts, the commissioners had made a written submission seeking extension of their tenure for a further five years.

“However, their contracts were not renewed until they expired while they remained in office. The lack of renewed contracts led to their salaries being withheld by the director of elections and this in turn led to the commissioners suspending her. This chain of events leaves many questions:

“Why did the government allow the commissioners’ contracts to come to an end without making a decision on whether to renew or vacate office? The inability of the government to act on such a critical matter has ultimately led to such a predicament,” Moeketsi said.

Bulane explained to this paper that he was yet to receive a letter officially appointing him in the interim, as the process had allegedly been frustrated by some senior officers working in tandem with some disgruntled junior officers.

“They have launched a smear campaign against the IEC claiming that there is a network shut down here, which is a lie. They are claiming that IEC cannot even pay salaries and cars are not fuelled. They are trying by all means to depict a picture of chaos at IEC.

“To every action there is reaction. Those loose cannons will be dealt with accordingly.

“But I want to assure Basotho that everything is in order and under control in IEC. The majority of the employees are committed to serve Basotho and their nation. It is only a few who are spreading lies about this organisation,” he concluded.”

The IEC is a creature of the constitution, established to manage elections independent of political players and government. It, among others, conducts elections to the national assembly, local government councils and undertakes and promotes research into electoral matters.

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