….as he claims political victimisation to remove him from his plump job
THE government’s advisor at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), Moahloli Mphaka, has won a High Court order for the government to resume paying his salary, which he claims had been halted pending his firing from his plump post.
Mr Mphaka claims in his court papers that his two co-applicants, Thabang Thite and Bahlakoana Manyanye, had been summoned by Natural Resources Minister Mohlomi Moleko on 22 December 2022 and informed that the new Moruo administration was not interested in working with them due to their affiliations to the All Basotho Convention (ABC). Their contracts would thus be terminated.
Mr Mphaka was the government secretary (GS) for former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s administration after it won the June 2017 snap general elections. He was removed from that post and replaced with current GS, Lerotholi Pheko, after Mr Thabane’s replacement as prime minister by Moeketsi Majoro in May 2020.
Mr Mphaka had then been seconded by Dr Majoro to the highly lucrative post of government advisor at the LHWP. According to court papers, that post earns Mr Mphaka a monthly salary of about M167 000, way above what he earned as GS. He is further entitled to a gratuity of 38 percent of his annual salary, payable at the end of the initial two years of his three year contract. That gratuity was thus due in December 2022 but was not paid, forcing Mr Mphaka to resort to court action.
Mr Mphaka states in his affidavit that Minister Mohlomi had told his co-applicants – Messrs Thite and Manyanye- that they were no longer needed by Mr Sam Matekane’s new government because of their affiliation to the ABC. Messrs Thite and Manyanye are employed at the LHWP as assistant advisors (social affairs) on M80 000 monthly, Just like Mr Mphaka, they too are entitled to the 38 percent gratuity sweetener.
“On 22 December 2022, my co-applicants were summoned by the fifth respondent (Minister Mohlomi) to his office and (he) informed them that he had been instructed by his superiors to terminate our contracts due to the fact that we are members of the All Basotho Convention and we were hired by the Former Prime Minister Dr Motsoahae Thabane,” Mr Mphaka states in his affidavit.
“My co-applicants informed the fifth respondent that the current government is bound by the decisions that were taken by their (sic) predecessor but nonetheless, they (co-applicants) indicated in no uncertain terms that they cannot force the (new) government to work with them and they proposed that the government should buy their contracts (sic) which will expire in the next eight and nine months then. The fifth respondent informed them that he would report to his Masters and get back to them.”
Mr Mphaka states that he himself was not present at the 22 December 2022 meeting as he had been on leave and outside the country. However, his colleagues had told him about the meeting.
Mr Mohlomi had not reverted to them on their proposal to have the remainder of their contracts paid. The government had proceeded to withhold their salaries and benefits for December nonetheless. They feared their January 2023 salaries would not be paid as well, forcing them to resort to court action.
Their salaries had been withheld notwithstanding that all other LHWP employees had been paid, Mr Mphaka claimed.
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The government had not proffered any explanation as to why it was withholding their salaries, even though their three-year contracts expire from August 2023, Mr Mphaka further states.
Justice Maseforo Mahase granted their interim application for the payment of their salaries and other benefits and for the government not to interfere with their employment conditions pending the adjudication of their main application in which they seek the fulfilment of their entire contractual terms.
Natural Resources Ministry Principal Secretary (PS), Chief Delegate LHWP Themba Sopeng, Finance and Development Planning PS Nthoateng Lebona, Minister of Natural Resources Mohlomi Moleko and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are first to sixth respondents respectively in the application.
“The respondents are interdicted and restrained from holding and/or interfering in any manner whatsoever with the Applicants’ monthly salaries pending the finalisation of this application,” Justice Mahase states in the interim order.
“The respondents are ordered, directed and compelled to continue to pay the Applicants’ monthly salaries pending the finalisation of this application. They are interdicted and restrained from interfering with the applicants’ contract of employment in any manner whatsoever pending the finalisation thereof.”
Justice Mahase also ordered the government to dispatch “a record of proceedings which gave birth to a decision to withhold” the trio’s monthly salaries and their gratuities for the month of December 2022 without any hearing whatsoever, to the Registrar of the High Court and the applicants’ lawyer, Adv Rethabile Setlojoane within 10 days.
She then postponed the case to 14 February 2023.
Mr Mphaka and his colleagues argued that the withholding of their salaries was an unlawful intrusion of their constitutional rights from arbitrary seizure of their properties.
They argued that their salaries were part of their properties as they had worked and earned them.