Govt fires Mosisili-era PSs

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 . . . as eight challenge dismissal

Pascalinah Kabi

PRINCIPAL Secretaries (PSs) appointed by the previous regime have been sent on a 40-day leave pending the termination of their contracts in yet another decisive move by the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane-led government to consolidate power.

However, eight of the PSs have challenged the decision, vowing to stay put until the expiration of their original three-year contracts.

The PSs, who are the administrative heads and chief accounting officers of government departments, are the latest senior officials to get their “marching orders” after Dr Thabane fired Government Secretary Lebohang Ramohlanka and ended the tenure of Colonel Tumo Lekhooa as National Security Service director-general earlier this month.

Colonel Lekhooa was dispatched to his old job as Director of Military Intelligence at the Lesotho Defence Force.

Dr Thabane also sent Lesotho Mounted Police Service Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa on an involuntary 90-day leave and issued the top cop a “show cause” letter for why he should not be dismissed this week.

Lesotho Correctional Service Commissioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele, has also been sent on a 57-day forced leave.

In a letter issued on Monday by Acting Government Secretary Emmanuel Lesoma, the PSs are instructed to start the 40-day leave with immediate effect which would end on 15 September 2017.

Most of the PSs, who number in the twenties, were appointed in September 2015 by Dr Mosisili, while others were reshuffled and hired over the course of 2016.

They were initially scheduled to leave office after the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections according to their initial contracts.

However, Dr Mosisili’s government renewed their contracts by three months ahead of the polls, a move which was deemed by the new coalition government as a tactic to throw spanners in its operations.

The elections resulted in a hung parliament, with Dr Thabane – who is also All Basotho Convention leader — forming a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

The Dr Mosisili-led seven-party coalition lost power after only managing to muster 47 seats to the new government’s 63 seats. The threshold for forming government in the 120-seat National Assembly is 61 seats.

The letter also cites a meeting Mr Lesoma had with the PSs on Tuesday last week in which he expressed the intention to send them on leave.

The Lesotho Times has seen one of the letters, which is titled “Leave of Absence” and reads: “Reference is made to the meeting held in the Government Secretary’s Boardroom on 18th July, 2017 and the discussions that ensued on the above captioned subject matter.

“Kindly note that the coalition government has decided that you proceed on leave of 40 working days starting from 24th July, 2017. The 40 days include your pending annual leave days.”

Dr Thabane’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, yesterday confirmed the development, adding that the premier had since appointed three new PSs.

“Ambassador Nkopane Monyane has been appointed as Foreign Affairs and International Relations PS, Mothabathe Hlalele as Public Works and Transport PS while ‘Mataeli Sekhantšo is Economics PS in Cabinet,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

However, eight of the PSs shown the door challenged the decision soon after the boardroom meeting last week. In a letter to Mr Lesoma penned on the PSs’ behalf by their lawyers, Molati Chambers, they state that are not going to “any leave nor anywhere”.

The eight are Home Affairs PS Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela, Public Service PS Lebohang Moreke, Justice PS Libeso Mapulumo Mosisili, Mining PS ‘Makhojane Monyane, Development Planning PS Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi, Defence and National Security PS ‘Mampho Kotelo-Molaoa, Cabinet Administration PS Makalo Theko and Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing PS Motseki Mofammere.

The eight PSs argue in a letter dated 19 July 2017 that they were employed on three-year contracts “in terms of section 11 (2) of the Public Service Act 2005 which provides that the Government Secretary and the Principal Secretaries shall hold office for a period of three years”.

They argue that their contracts were forcibly amended “mid-stream”.

“. . . mid-stream the duration of their contracts, they were made to sign unlawful addendums to their employment contracts which in some instances were signed while in other instances were not signed,” reads the letter.

While acknowledging attending the board room meeting in which they were informed of the government’s meeting to send them on leave, the PSs assert that they are staying put.

“We advise that clients are not going to any leave or anywhere.

“Clients shall execute their duties until (the) expiration of their respective contracts.

“Clients shall further claim renewal of their contracts upon reaching the termination date.”

The lawyers add: “In the event that you wish to communicate any further or make a proposal to clients which does not in any way put them at a worse off position than they would be at were their respective contracts to terminate at their maturity date, kindly conduct us accordingly.”

In a previous interview with this paper, AD spokesperson and National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Teboho Lehloenya, accused the former Mosisili government of attempting to sabotage the new administration by making controversial last-minute appointments to key positions and extending the PSs’ contracts.

Dr Mosisili’s son, Rethabile, was appointed to the influential and plum post of chief delegate for the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) in April this year despite a 1 March 2017 parliamentary no-confidence vote on the then governing seven-party coalition.

Mr Mosisili was this week fired from the post and sent back to his previous position as deputy PS in the Water Affairs ministry.

“This is manufactured. There was no need for the former prime minister to call an election in a manner that he did. It was not only that, it was also the appointments to the various offices and in our view he did that to frustrate the incoming government,” Mr Lehloenya said.

“So we were thrown into the deep end and our role is to swim and we cannot afford to sink because if we do the country will be in disarray.”

 

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