Thakalekoala, Moyeye fired
NEWLY appointed Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has terminated the contracts of his predecessor Thomas Thabane’s spokesperson Relebohile Moyeye and senior private secretary Thabo Thakalekoala.
Mr Thakalekoala is not happy with the move as he believes his contract only ends in 2022, the year when Mr Thabane’s tenure was supposed to have ended. The former premier was appointed in 2017 and his tenure was supposed to last five years until 2022. He was, however, forced to quit on 19 May 2020.
This after his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party withdrew from the governing coalition with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho. The ABC subsequently formed a new government with the Democratic Congress, and several other parties, and Dr Majoro was appointed premier in place of Mr Thabane.
Government sources this week told the Lesotho Times Mr Thakalekoala had been summoned by the principal secretary for cabinet administration, Lefu Manyokole, at the weekend and told his services were no longer needed. The sources said Mr Thakalekoala was then ordered to surrender keys for his office and official vehicle.
Messrs Manyokole and Thakalekoala were not reachable for comment on their mobile phones this week.
However, Mr Thakalekoala told a local radio station he believed that he should not have been fired because his contract was tied to a prime minister’s five-year tenure. Mr Thabane’s premature departure from office should thus not have resulted in his firing, he claimed.
“My understanding is that I should still continue in my contract,” Mr Thakalekoala said.
“I sought audience with Ntate Majoro but he just didn’t have time for me. However, I was surprised that everything was communicated to me by Ntate Manyokole but Manyokole did not have a right to expel me as he was my subordinate.
“On Monday, I was accosted by some police officers from the Special Operations Unit (SOU) who were in the company of a driver from cabinet. But I refused to hand over my car keys to them because people were watching. The police took me to the office of Government Secretary (Moahloli Mphaka) who said I should be left in his care,” added Mr Thakalekoala. He did not say what transpired afterwards and when he eventually vacated office.
On the other hand, Mr Moyeye told the Lesotho Times that he had no problem leaving office as he understood that he was in office only as long as Mr Thabane was prime minister. Now that the former premier had left office, he too had to go, he said.
“My contract is very clear that my employment is tied to the (former) prime minister (Mr Thabane) being in office. His departure automatically meant that my contract also came to an end.
“Immediately after he (Mr Thabane) made his retirement statement on 19 May, I went straight to my office and took my phone charger which happened to be my only property in that office and I left without questioning anyone. I knew that I had been hired by him and now that he was leaving, I was also expected to go. There was no need to create a scene whatsoever and make any noise about it,” said Mr Moyeye.
Meanwhile, the brouhaha surrounding Mr Thakalekoala’s departure has resulted in the Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo issuing a legal opinion on the “contracts of employment of public officers whose contracts are linked to the tenure of office of the prime minister”.
In his opinion issued on Tuesday, Adv Phoofolo unequivocally states that public officers like Mr Thakalekoala can only be in employment “for as long as the incumbent remains in office as the prime minister”.
“It would not be correct, with all due respect, to interpret the terms of those contracts to mean that such contracts are linked to the life of the government being a period of five years…
“It cannot therefore be said that an employment contract exists for as long as the office of the prime minister exists. A logical interpretation could only be for as long as the incumbent remains in the office of the prime minister…
“The contractual relationship ceases automatically upon the departure of that particular prime minister. The rationale behind this position is to allow the incoming prime minister a free hand to choose any person to serve directly under him,” Adv Phoofolo states.
This means that Mr Thakalekoala’s tenure was tied to that of Mr Thabane and he automatically ceased to be a public officer when Mr Thabane quit his post.
Adv Phoofolo said a public officer’s contract could also be terminated if he resigned after giving a month’s notice.
In any event, it is routine for leaders the world over to appoint trusted lieutenants to positions like that of private secretary and spokesperson as these are not statutory offices with stringent criteria for appointment but more of political appointments based on political considerations and personal trust. For Mr Thakalekoala to therefore cry foul over his firing is thus utterly incomprehensible.