MASERU – The Lesotho Athletics Federation (LAF) has been forced to suspend or shorten constitutional processes leading to the election of its executive committee – just ahead of its electoral conference next month.
According to LAF Public Relations Officer, Sejanamane Maphathe, the local athletics body has set March 20 as the polling day following a World Athletics (WA) ultimatum forcing them to fresh polls. WA told LAF leadership in a virtual meeting held last Tuesday to hold fresh elections before end of next month or lose membership in the international body.
They had to intervene following LAF leadership’ split borne by incessant wrangles that began in October 2020 owing to the controversial electoral process held the same month. The elections, which were later annulled, were held against resolutions by the Arbitration Tribunal barring its continuance.
Maphathe told Public Eye on Tuesday this week that they must suspend Article 6 of their constitution in order to be able to hold the upcoming fresh elections, per WA’s directive. “I think what should be done in this case is to suspend that section (Article 6) which stipulates the process of the elections,” said Maphathe.
LAF spokesperson further said this move should be possible since it has already been suggested by the local athletics tribunal in a case brought before it by three LAF member district clubs, Mafeteng Athletics, Berea Athletics and Maseru Academy; the clubs challenged the decisions made by a Special General Meeting (SGM) held in September last year.
“The tribunal had recommended that the process leading to elections could be shortened.” Maphathe said it will only be after suspension of the particular clause stipulating electoral processes that an independent body could be established and regulations to govern the process be made.
This will then be followed by the announcement for competing candidates to come forward. Before the WA intervened and issued the ultimatum, the local athletics mother-body leadership split into two factions. One faction was led by LAF outgoing Vice-President, Tšeliso Pheta, and another by LAF outgoing President Makhaola Serake.
Pheta was elected LAF’s new president during October 2020’s controversial elections, with LAF outgoing Secretary General Makara Thibinyane retaining his post at the same elective conference. Thibinyane was pro Pheta’s faction, while LAF outgoing Treasurer Kokolia Mokonyana and Maphathe were both in Serake’s camp.
The upcoming fresh elections were initially set for the beginning of June by Serake and his loyalists. This while from the beginning Pheta’s faction wanted the elections to be held next month. The situation was worsened to such an extent that Pheta’s faction even sought legal recourse, asking the court to declare them the rightful leadership of the LAF.
The case was later withdrawn on the advice of the WA. However, the move failed to resolve tensions as Pheta and Thibinyane were both summoned for a disciplinary hearing by Serake. Pheta was expected to appear before the disciplinary panel on February 9 and Thibinyane on February 5, both on charges of misconduct.
But WA last Tuesday declared both suspensions null and void. Meanwhile, sources within local athletics said Serake will not be contesting the upcoming elections. “He said he is not going to contest in the upcoming elections,” said one source. But Serake failed to either confirm or deny these allegations when contacted by this paper.