HIGH Court judge Justice Teboho Moiloa this week refused to grand an interim order that would have allowed 38 appellants sacked by the Ministry of Defence to stay in employment until an application to block their dismissal had been finalised.
The 44 office assistants were fired last week for allegedly being hired without the approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
They were recruited during the tripartite coalition government led by then prime minister Thomas Thabane.
According to their dismissal letters signed by the Ministry of Defence and National Security’s Principal Secretary (PS) ‘Mampho Kotelo-‘Molaoa, the group was supposed to stop reporting for work at the end of this month.
However, only 38 of the fired employees filed an urgent application before the High Court on Friday last week to block the dismissal.
The group also wanted the High Court to stop the PS from dismissing them until their application had been finalized, as temporary relief.
The workers further wanted their case to be heard on an urgent basis.
However, Justice Moiloa on Tuesday rejected their prayer that they should remain at work until their case has been finalized. The judge however, ordered that the case should be heard on an urgent basis.
He further ordered the respondents, who include the Defence PS and Attorney General, to file their answering papers by 23 March 2016, while the applicants should file their replying papers by 28 March 2016.
The case will be heard on 7 April 2016, while the dismissed employees would have stopped reporting for work on 31 March 2016.
According to their dismissal letters, the office assistants’ appointment by then Defence PS Sehloho Moshoeshoe in March 2014 was unlawful because it had not been sanctioned by the Public Service Commission.
The letters, which are dated 25 February 2016, read: “Invitation to show cause why relationship between the parties may not be ended . . .
“On the 6th March 2014, you were written a letter purportedly appointing you as an Office Assistant in the Ministry of Defence and National Security. Subsequently, there was also a document signed by you and the Principal Secretary, giving effect to the purported (emphasis added) appointment. The document is often referred to as a letter of offer of appointment.
“Regrettably, I write to inform you that it has since turned out that neither the letter nor document referred to above had the authority/approval of the lawful appointing body for public officers, the Public Service Commission. You may wish to refer to section 137 (1) of the constitution. Section 6 of the Public Service Act of 2005 bears a similar provision.
“The sad reality is that in law, there was therefore, no appointment at all. We were all operating under a misapprehension.
“It is in the light of the above that I regret to inform you that I intend to bring to an end any form of ‘employment’ relationship with you vis-à-vis the Ministry of Defence and National Security, including effecting stoppage of the ‘wages’ you have so far been paid; and also withdrawing and cancelling the ‘appointment’ letter (so-called) referred to above, including anything which arose therefrom.
“However, even as I intend to proceed in the manner described above, for fairness sake, the intention is that 31st March 2016 shall be the end of any relationship between you and the Ministry of Defence and National Security.
“It is possible that you may wish to comment on the matter in writing within seven days of receipt thereof.”
The dismissed employees are represented by Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, while the respondents are represented by King’s Counsel Motiea Teele.