THE Defence Advisor at Lesotho’s High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, Colonel Tau Ntšohi on Tuesday filed an urgent application before the High Court seeking an order to block government’s decision to terminate his diplomatic service.
Colonel Ntšohi, who is a member of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), was appointed to the position on 10 October 2012 for a three-year period that would have ended on 10 October 2015.
But in a new turn of events, the Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Tebello Metsing, on 18 June 2015 wrote a letter to the High Commissioner, ‘Malejaka Letooane, informing her about government’s decision to withdraw Colonel Ntšohi.
According to the letter Colonel Ntšohi was supposed to report for work at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Maseru on 1 July 2015.
However, Colonel Ntšohi has asked the High Court for an order “reviewing, correcting or setting aside the respondents’ resolution” on the grounds it was reached at “contrary to the rules of natural justice”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Tlohang Sekhamane, Minister of Defence and National Security Tšeliso Mokhosi, LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, Foreign Affairs PS Tebello Metsing, Defence Ministry PS Thato Mohasoa and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe are cited as first to sixth respondent, respectively in the case.
In his ruling, High Court judge Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane yesterday granted the Colonel an interim order that he should not be called back to Lesotho until the case has been finalised.
In his affidavit filed in court on Tuesday, Colonel Ntšohi narrated the circumstances that led to his application before the court on 19 June 2015.
“On Friday 19 June 2015, I was called to the office of the High Commissioner where I was given letters from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lesotho. The letters informed me that a decision had been taken to withdraw me as Defence Advisor in the Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria with immediate effect,” he noted.
Colonel Ntšohi added he subsequently wrote to the two ministries “pleading to be granted more time to prepare for my movement to Lesotho.”
However, he alleges his letters “were not duly considered by the respondents as they only awarded me time until 13 July 2015”.
The affidavit continues: “I wrote a second letter on 8 July 2015 informing my principals of the need to be permitted time in line with what is usually afforded to staff being recalled to Lesotho.
“Notwithstanding the serious issues I raised when pleading with the 1st and 2nd respondents, I received a letter on 10 July 2015 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing me that my request had been declined and that I was to report at the Ministry of Defence on 13July 2015 as earlier indicated.”
Colonel Ntšohi argues “no compelling reasons” were given for refusing his request.
“I have been advised by my attorney of record and believe the same to be true that any administrative decision or quasi-judicial decision that has an adverse impact on my rights must be accompanied by reasons.
“There were no reasons which were adduced in motivation of the decline for my request notwithstanding my cogent reasons for requesting more time to organise myself.
“This is not to mention the fact that my colleagues who are in foreign service here in Pretoria with myself have been afforded a window period of three months to prepare for their exit.
“The discriminatory treatment which is afforded me under the circumstances leads me to the conclusion of ill-will and malice under the circumstances.”
Colonel Ntšohi further argues diplomatic staff transfers should be made following due process of law.
“I aver that this was not done in my case because I was not given time or a chance to make representations before such an adverse decision against me was taken.
“I aver that I was entitled to a hearing before such an adverse decision could be taken as the rules of natural justice dictate; I verily aver that I have legitimate expectation to be heard,” he stated.
Colonel Ntšohi also accused the government of breach of contract for terminating his commission before the end of his term.
He states in the affidavit: “I must also indicate that the decision to recall me back to Lesotho constitutes a breach of contract on the part of government.
“This is in view of the fact that the Public Service Regulations of 2008 bind the government to find schooling for children of a public servant such as in my case.”
He had also mentioned in his letters that his children were still attending school in South Africa.
In granting the interim relief, Justice Hlajoane ordered Colonel Ntšohi and the respondents’ lawyers to appear in court on Thursday next week for possible hearing of the case.