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Fired ministry staff fight for reinstatement 

by Lesotho Times
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Tefo Tefo

Justice Teboho Moiloa yesterday ordered the Public Service Commission (PSC) to be part of court proceedings in a case in which 38  employees are fighting dismissal from the Ministry of Defence.

Defence and National Security Principal Secretary (PS) ‘Mampho Kotelo-‘Molaoa on  25 February 2016 wrote letters to 44 office assistants she alleged had not been properly employed.

The PS informed the employees that they should leave the ministry by 31 March 2016.

But only 38 of the employees challenged the dismissal in the High Court on 4 March 2016. The applicants wanted the court to find that Dr Kotelo-‘Molaoa acted beyond her powers when terminating their employment.

On Monday this week, a lawyer representing the PS , King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, argued it was necessary that the PSC – as the employer of all civil servants– should be part of the proceedings.

“Arguing the PS did not have the authority to terminate the employment suggests they were properly employed and the PSC is responsible for employing civil servants.

“This creates a direct and substantial interest for the PSC to be heard,” he said.

On the other hand, the lawyer representing the applicants, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, told the court the PSC did not have direct interest in the case.

“All we are asking is for an order that the PS did not have the authority to terminate the employment of the applicants.

“And again, there is no need for the PSC to be joined in the case because the Attorney General has also been cited as one of the respondents,” he said.

In his ruling, Justice Moiloa said: “The decision of the court is that the joinder is allowed.

“The Public Service Commission should be joined to the proceedings and this should be done within 14 days.

“The case will be heard on 10 June this year.”

According to the dismissal letters signed by Dr Kotelo-‘Molaoa, the office assistants’ appointment by then Defence PS Sehloho Moshoeshoe in March 2014 was unlawful because it had not been sanctioned by the PSC.

The letters read: ‘Invitation to show cause why relationship between the parties may not be ended . . .

“On the 6th March 2014, you were written a letter purportedly appointing you as an Office Assistant in the Ministry of Defence and National Security. Subsequently, there was also a document signed by you and the Principal Secretary, giving effect to the purported appointment. The document is often referred to as a letter of offer of appointment. Regrettably, I write to inform you that it has since turned out that neither the letter nor document referred to above had the authority/approval of the lawful appointing body for public officers, the Public Service Commission. You may wish to refer to section 137 (1) of the constitution. Section 6 of the Public Service Act of 2005 bears a similar provision. The sad reality is that, in law, there was therefore, no appointment at all. We were all operating under a misapprehension.

“It is in the light of the above that I regret to inform you that I intend to bring to an end any form of ‘employment’ relationship with you vis-à-vis the Ministry of Defence and National Security including effecting stoppage of the ‘wages’ you have so far been paid,  and also withdrawing and cancelling the ‘appointment’ letter (so-called) referred to above, including anything which arose therefrom.

“However, even as I intend to proceed in the manner described above, for fairness’ sake, the intention is that the end 31st March 2016 shall be the end of any relationship between you and the Ministry of Defence and National Security.

“It is possible that you may wish to comment on the matter in writing within the seven days of receipt thereof.”

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