THE Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) has fired its Staff Association Secretary-General Lebonejoang Ramohalali who had been suspended since January this year for insubordination.
Mr Ramohalali was suspended on 6 January 2016 for speaking to the media without authorisation about the Lesotho Correctional Services Bill (2015) last December which has since become a law.
He was also suspended for “undermining” Parliament after criticising its passing of the bill without the input of opposition legislators during their boycott of the National Assembly.
According to a missive LCS Commissioner ’Matefo Makhalemele wrote to Mr Ramohalali, the latter did not attend a disciplinary hearing on 26 January this year.
Dated 18 April 2016, the letter stated: “You will also recall that the case proceeded in absentia following your total disregard of our attempts to secure your presence.
“In the end, the presiding officer found you guilty as charged and dismissal has been varied to demotion to the lowest rank.”
The same letter asked Mr Ramohalali to “show cause” in writing why the demotion should not be effected by 6 May 2016.
In June this year, Commissioner Makhalemele wrote another letter to Mr Ramohalali titled “Demotion to the lowest rank of Correctional Officer”. In the letter, the Commissioner Makhalemele said Mr Ramohalali did not respond to the request to “show cause” why the demotion should not be effected.
“To our dismay and shock you did not respond despite having been served with the said communication.
“You will therefore handover to the Officer Commanding Berea Correctional institution all items entrusted to you in respect of your former rank,” reads part of the letter dated 3 June.
On 7 September, Mr Ramohalali received another correspondence from Commissioner Makhalemele giving him 21 working days to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed from the service.
It states that the decision was made after disciplinary proceedings were held on 8 February 2016 on a charge of contravening the provisions of Paragraph (2) Rule 156 (1) of the Lesotho Prison Rules 1957.
The specific rule titled “Offences against Discipline by Officers” states in paragraph one that: “Any officer shall be guilty of an offence against discipline, and liable to the disciplinary awards prescribed in rule 163, who is insubordinate by word or act towards any officer, or officer in charge, whose orders it is his duty to obey.”
Part of the letter reads: “You are hereby asked to show cause why a recommendation of dismissal made against you cannot be confirmed. Your reason(s) should reach the office of the Commissioner within 21 working days upon receipt of this letter. “Please be cognisant of the fact that, should you fail to advance such reasons within the stipulated period, you will leave this office with no option but to confirm such dismissal and thereby dismiss you from the service.”
Mr Ramohalali was then issued a letter of dismissal on 12 October 2016.
However, Mr Ramohalali yesterday told the Lesotho Times he would challenge the decision since he received the letter on 15 September, before the 21 working days had lapsed.
“I will not take the decision (to dismiss him) lying down and I am going to fight to the bitter end until I get justice,” he said.
Mr Ramohalali also claimed he had been targeted by LCS management to “scare off” other officers from joining the staff association of which he was also president.
“They refer to me each time they threaten officers when they fight for their rights and I am not at all scared. I intend to oppose the dismissal because I still have a pending judgment in a constitutional matter against my employers,” he said.
LCS spokesperson Assistant Superintendent Neo Mopeli would not be drawn to elaborate on the matter, except to curtly say: “Yes he has been dismissed.”