Leaders of Lesotho political parties have called on tightening security at the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) warehouse following a vandalism and theft of 21 voter registration machines’ computer laptops.
The equipment was found missing by the commission’s staff from its main storage facility in Maseru on November 11, forcing the commission to alert the political party leaders ahead of the February 15 planned general election.
The IEC has admitted that the disappearance of the items was proof that there was a lapse on security management and control systems at the warehouse.
There seems to be some lax on security at the warehouse and the fact that the equipment is missing testimony that was negligence on security controls, the IEC Commissioner Makase Nyaphisi admitted when questioned about the security situation obtaining at the facility.
The IEC had ordered 600 voter registration machines but the commission learned the supplier had delivered an extra 11 high technology machines from Hong-Kong.
The commission, Nyaphisi explained, has pleaded with the supplier to issue out the serial numbers of the stolen computers, adding an the election body planned to conduct the voter registration roll for authenticity.
The IEC Systems Administrator Silas T’soeu said any entry and exit at the warehouse is monitored by the security personnel who record it on the register. The missing equipment was kept at the storage for repair , he revealed noting there was no way the items could be manipulated for unauthorized registration of voters.
Advocate Thulo Mahlakeng, leader of the Basotho Congress Party , advised for strong security control efforts at the building urging : “You have to be in control (of security).”
Some of the leaders demanded a suspension of the IEC staff in the systems office and suggested for establishment of an inquiry .
Another IEC Commissioner ’Mamosebi Pholo promised the commission would still deliver a fair and transparent election as the missing computer laptops could not be utilized without the cases.
Of the stolen items, important accessories such as the camera, finger print pad, signature pad and the printer have been left.
“Despite the setback, the IEC is determined to deliver a fair, free and transparent election. We have to work hard and be very vigilant and election preparations are well in advance,” remarked Pholo, allying fears for a possible rigging of poll. The 11 extra machines have also disappeared.
She said assured the politicians that the missing computers contained no information that could be used to “temper with the electors’ register.”
Leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing urged for thorough investigation while urging for formation of a task team to monitor election preparations. The team, he thought, would work closely with the commission.
The IEC has already pleaded with the political parties to revive the monitoring task team of experts to be an oversight on election preparations.
The matter has been reported to the police who have started investigations.