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The root cause in ABC stalemate

MNNCIJ REPORTERS

Validity of the newly-elected All Basotho Convention’s national executive committee will be determined by a “detailed report” that the electoral body is expected to issue in three weeks’ time, MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has established.

Until then, the “outgoing” NEC may not vacate office and handover administrative powers to the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led team.

The Centre established further last night that, once finalised, the report will be handed by the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN) to the outgoing NEC, specifically to its secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele.

LCN was contracted by the ABC NEC, through office of Ntsekele, to conduct the recent weekend elections, which were marred by fracas that only exposed rooted factionalism within the Lesotho’s biggest party.

The divisions, rooted in existing animosity between the two NECs, were further highlighted yesterday when the Mahao-led NEC was locked out of the ABC premises and forced to hold a press briefing at the backside of the Metcash building in Maseru.

The situation has left everyone asking who exactly is in control of the ABC after the weekend elections.

A close source told the Centre last night that there could not be a vacuum in the party’s NEC, “The newly elected NEC is only excited…the elective conference is not yet over. Therefore, Ntsekele’s NEC is still operational until it hands over to the incoming committee.

“The conference has not been closed and this elected NEC has not received a blessing from the conference, not from the leader (Thomas Thabane) because he is part of the election, his position was uncontested.”

ABC leader Thomas Thabane

That the LCN report is expected to first land in Ntsekele’s office, the Centre was also made to understand that the fate of its content lies in the hands of the outgoing NEC.

“The outgoing NEC gets the upper hand; it is the one that will determine what to do with the contents of the report. It may determine unilaterally that based on contents of the report, the elections’ outcome is invalid,” said the source.

The LCN Director Seabata Motsamai last night refused to say details of the report but confirmed to the Centre it will be issued “in three weeks from the date we finalised counting of the votes”.

While Motsamai avoided saying much about the report, the Centre learned from a close source that there are two petitions “that will play a key role in the outcome of the report”.

The petitions were filed to LCN, as the electoral body, by the ABC Elections Sub-Committee and the outgoing NEC on Tuesday – the day the council was finalising counting of votes at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) following a dramatic expulsion of the party members by police from the Lehakoe Recreational Centre on Monday. The conference two-day permit had expired, the police said.

The Centre was told how the first petition was submitted to LCN by sub-committee at around 6:00pm while the counting of votes was continuing at TRC. The second petition was submitted an hour later at same venue by the NEC.

Both petitions, signed by ’Malehloka Raditapole for the sub-committee and Ntsekele for the NEC, referred to a complaint lodged by the Rothe legislator Mohapinyane Mohapi against the elections process.

The NEC and the sub-committee requested LCN to stop the counting of votes immediately on the basis of Mohapi’s complaint.

Motsamai argued both the ABC structures had no grounds to interdict counting of votes, “especially at that stage when it was too late”. He explained at that time, they were only left with two positions, the spokesperson and deputy.

The Centre saw a copy of Mohapi’s letter which partly reads: “I am not satisfied with the results because the numbers reported by election subcommittee, which received constituencies’ delegates, contradict total number of votes as per the results”.

He argues the expected number of delegates was 1748, received delegates were 1586 and as reported by the electoral body total number voters was 1537. Surprisingly, Mohapi says total number of voters for the position of deputy leader was far beyond the previously given voters.

“Explanation was that some of the voters casted their ballots into wrong boxes. However, the electoral body surprisingly announced the results without considering the misplaced votes (malahleha) which could change the announced results.”

According to Mohapi, it was surprising that when the LCN continued with other positions, misplaced votes were dealt with instantly. He says the results were not credible, questioning their veracity due to “selective approach” taken from one position to another.

Mohapi alleges one of the observers attempted to protest this but was furiously rejected with the LCN officials saying he was delaying the process of counting. He said counting procedure kept changing and that affected transparency and credibility of the results.

Speaking to the Centre last night, Ntsekele said he should have had a meeting with LCN over its delivery of election report but such a meeting failed and has been postponed to today (Friday).

Outgoing ABC secretary general Samonyane Ntsekele

Ntsekele who’s also the Tsikoane constituency legislator said the outgoing committee engaged LCN to run the party leadership poll with a spirit of “promoting neutrality and fairness and it must report back to us, the outgoing committee”.

But, Ntsekele notes it must be known that during the elections, he received an election petition which he said was lodged by Mohapi against the LCN contracted as an electoral body and the Secretary General’s Office.

“LCN brought the complaint to be dealt with by us, ABC outgoing NEC. We are yet to meet and determine a way forward now that we’ve received this petition,” said Ntsekele.

Ntsekele told the Centre it is only after the ABC outgoing NEC had received a report on how the polls were conducted by the electoral body that it shall be empowered to deal with Mohapi’s petition.

“On the question of handover to the incoming NEC, it shall be determined by the manner in which the complaints lodged against the LCN and the SG’s office over the running of the elections are resolved.

The outgoing ABC Secretary General further insists proper procedures must be followed to the letter for the handover of power to the incoming NEC.

“These are the issues that the outgoing committee must deal with as it remains in office until after the conference. We are still within the conference until it has been closed officially by the party leaders.

“What must be clear is that, the handover has not taken place and it is after handover that the new NEC would take over leadership of the party. Our leader shall close the conference, which may also be an open conference for all members to attend. It is at this conference that the new ABC leadership shall be introduced to the members,” said Ntsekele.

Ntsekele also told the Centre that he has since received a directive from the incoming Secretary General that there should be a handover meeting by Monday next week but he insists it is only when the outgoing committee has dealt with outstanding issues in the conference that a handover shall be made.

In yesterday’s frustrated press conference, the new NEC dismissed claims of a possible split in the party. The committee was represented by only three members namely Secretary General Lebohang Hlaele, Chairperson Sam Rapapa and Spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa.

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