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Teachers’ union leader fights dismissal

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE High Court will on Monday rule on whether or not the government should continue paying Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) chairperson, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, who it fired from the teaching service for allegedly inciting teachers to strike last November.

Mr Ntsibolane was fired on 30 January 2019 for allegedly neglecting his teaching duties last November during which time the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) says he incited teachers to go on an illegal strike. He subsequently filed an application last Friday challenging his dismissal.

Mr Ntsibolane’s lawyer, Attorney Khotso Nthontho, on Tuesday petitioned the High Court to grant an interdict to stay Mr Ntsibolane’s dismissal pending the finalisation of the matter.

The TSC, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Training, Lithabaneng High School, the School Board of Lithabaneng High School and the Attorney-General are the first to sixth respondents respectively.

In terms of the interim relief, he wants the court to order the government to reverse its decision to stop paying his salary and pay his wages until the main application is finalised.

Attorney Nthontho implored High Court judge, Justice Keketso Moahloli, to order the government to pay his client’s salary, saying Mr Ntsibolane was the breadwinner in his family.

“I have been instructed by my client to apply for a stay of his dismissal so that he may continue earning his salary as a temporary relief while the court is deliberating the matter of his dismissal,” Attorney Nthontho told the court.

“My client stands to suffer prejudice if the dismissal is not stayed because he is the sole breadwinner. Cutting his salary means that he will not be able to pay school fees for his two children. His insurance policies will also lapse because he will fail to pay the monthly premiums. The government stands to lose nothing whereas my client will be prejudiced.”

However, the respondents’ lawyer, Advocate Mafefooane Moshoeshoe argued that the applicant cannot request for a stay on his dismissal which has already been decided and came into effect on 31 January 2019.

“The decision of the dismissal came into effect on 31 January 2019 and the applicant also clearly states that he was dismissed in his application. Therefore, if a stay is granted it would mean that the applicant has to be reinstated. A dismissal cannot be stayed.

“The stay could only have been done if the dismissal had not been executed and so in this case, there is nothing to stay. The salary has already been stopped because the applicant has been dismissed so there is nothing to interdict in the regard to the stoppage of salary. We pray that an interim relief should not be granted,” Adv Moshoeshoe said.

For his part, Justice Moahloli said that he would deliver a judgement on Monday by which date he would have exercised his mind on the issue.

“I have heard arguments from both sides and I should be able to apply my mind and make a decision. However, I am swamped with work so I will grant a ruling on Monday morning. Judgement is therefore reserved until Monday at 11am,” Justice Moahloli said.

In his court papers filed on Friday, Mr Ntsibolane petitioned the court to order the TSC to ‘show cause’ why its decision to fire him should not be nullified.

“They (respondents) must show cause why the decision to dismiss the applicant (Mr Ntsibolane) from the teaching service shall not be reviewed and set aside,” Mr Ntsibolane states in his court papers.

He also states that the TSC was “not properly composed in line with section 41 (1) (a) of the Education Act of 2010”, which states that the TSC must be composed of five members, at least two of whom should be female”.

However, according to Mr Ntsibolane, there were only two TSC members when it resolved to fire him and both of them were male.

“Consequently, the decision to dismiss the applicant from the teaching service should be declared unlawful, null and void and of no legal effect,” Mr Ntsibolane states.

He further states that his reputation may be irreparably damaged by the allegation that he called for an illegal strike.

“This may make it very difficult for me (Mr Ntsibolane) to find employment anywhere in future.”

Last November, members of three teachers’ unions, namely, LAT, the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA went on strike to press the government to grant them salary increments and review their working conditions.

And on 18 January 2019, Mr Ntsibolane was served with a letter requesting him to ‘show cause’ why he should not be dismissed for allegedly neglecting his teaching duties last November.

“The (Teaching Service) Commission is in receipt of a report of inspection carried out at your school (Lithabaneng High School) on 15 November 2018 wherein you are alleged to have been negligent in performing your duties in that:

  • You announced an illegal strike for teachers to partake.
  • You absented yourself from duty on the days of the illegal strike.
  • Your illegally engaged on different occasions one Palesa Maapesa, Nthati Mabooe and Teboho Pheane to stand in and perform your teaching duties while you were absent from school.

“The recommendation before the commission arising from that report is that you be dismissed from the teaching service in accordance with Section 19 (4) of the Education Act No. 3 of 2010,” the TSC stated in the ‘show cause’ letter.

Mr Ntsibolane, who has been a teacher at Lithabaneng High School since 2012, was subsequently fired on 30 January.

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