- as Thabane’s ghost continues to haunt PM
- describes PM as a “lame duck… who cannot undo his predecessor’s appointments”
DESPITE being forced to step down over three months ago, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s ghost continues to stalk his successor Moeketsi Majoro.
This as fired Public Works principal secretary (PS), Mothabathe Hlalele, became the latest Thabane loyalist to file a High Court application challenging his dismissal by the premier.
Two other fired PSs ‘Mabotle Damane (Communications, Science and Technology Ministry) and ‘Maseithati Mabeleng (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation) have also filed court applications challenging Dr Majoro’s moves to oust them from their positions.
Since taking over from Mr Thabane on 20 May 2020, Dr Majoro has tried to make major changes to the civil service, firing some PSs including Mr Hlalele and hiring new ones.
The move has not gone down well with some of the axed PSs. Mr Hlalele, who was fired on 21 August 2020, has sued for reinstatement, arguing that his dismissal by Dr Majoro is “unlawful” because prior to his departure, Mr Thabane had renewed his contract by a further three years until 2023.
Mr Hlalele further argues that Dr Majoro is a “lame duck” prime minister who cannot make his own independent decisions but is bound by those made by his predecessor.
“The current prime minister of Lesotho (Dr Majoro) is not distinct and separate from the erstwhile Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, hence the decisions of the latter are the decisions of the former and/or the former is bound by the decisions, contracts and delicts of the former,” Mr Hlalele states in his court papers filed this week.
He is not alone in making the bizarre argument.
Three weeks ago, another member of Dr Majoro’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Nonkululeko Zaly, derisively labelled him a mere “caretaker or regent prime minister” who is only finishing Mr Thabane’s term which would have ended in 2022 had the latter not been pushed out by his own party.
She argued that as “caretaker prime minister”, Dr Majoro cannot make independent decisions to undo decisions made by Mr Thabane who was a substantive prime minister.
Ms Zaly made the claim in her court papers challenging Dr Majoro’s decision to revoke her appointment by Mr Thabane as PS in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ms Damane, Mabeleng and Mr Hlalele were among eight PSs whose contracts were renewed by Mr Thabane in April after they wrote to him expressing their wishes to have them renewed.
The five others are Nthoateng Lebona (Finance), Motena Tšolo (Development Planning), Malefetsane Nchaka (Water), Tšeliso Lesenya (Communications, Science and Technology) and Khothatso Tšooana (Health).
Exactly a month before the collapse of his four parties’ regime, Mr Thabane renewed the eight PSs’ contracts and also appointed Ms Zaly to the Home Affairs portfolio.
Mr Thabane had not anticipated the collapse of his government which happened a month later on 20 May 2020. He was subsequently forced out with his party entering a new coalition with the Democratic Congress (DC), ditching a leader it said had become a liability after being implicated in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.
Dr Majoro subsequently revoked Ms Zaly’s appointment on 29 July 2020. However, the premier has had a change of heart. He last week appointed her as Local Government and Chieftaincy PS. He also re-appointed Ms Lebona (Finance) and Mr Nchaka (Water).
He nevertheless fired Mr Hlalele, who has since refused to accept his dismissal and filed a court application for reinstatement.
Dr Majoro, newly appointed public works PS Retšelisitsoe Mohale; the Government Secretary; the Public Service Commission; Public Works Minister Lebohang Monaheng; Finance PS Lebona; the Director Human Resource Public Works, Thakhane Mashopha; Public Service PS Thabo Mokoto, the Public Officers Defined Contribution Pension Fund, the Principal Officer Public Officer’s Defined Contribution Pension Fund and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo are the first to 11th respondents respectively.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Hlalele argues that Dr Majoro has no right to fire him because his contract was renewed by Mr Thabane before the latter was forced out of office. He says he served in terms of his ‘new’ contract from 1 July to 21 August 2020 when Dr Majoro fired him.
He claims that Dr Majoro is bound by Mr Thabane’s decisions and that the premier cannot make an independent decision to fire him.
“I am advised and verily believe that my appointment was in line with the constitution of Lesotho and cannot be outlawed by the 1st respondent (Majoro) without my consent and/or an order of court.
“The decision to renew my contract was vicariously done by the 1st respondent via his predecessor Mr Thabane. Hence, the 1st respondent is estopped from revisiting his own decision to renew my contract and purporting to withdraw from the same without my consent,” Mr Hlalele states in his court papers.
He argues that he can only be fired by Dr Majoro acting in consultation with the PSC and this can only be done after a hearing and when he has been given the opportunity to argue his case.
Mr Hlalele therefore wants the court to nullify his dismissal by Dr Majoro.
Alternatively, he wants the court to order Dr Majoro and his government to pay him his monthly salary until 2023 when his contract would have ended had it not been terminated.
“(The) 1st respondent…purported to appoint the 2nd respondent (Mohale) to my position. The said decision affects me in my status or dignity, property and livelihood rights and privileges.
“I have accrued existing and legitimately expected rights, interests and privileges arising from the appointment…for the period of 36 months commencing from 1 July 2020. However, the first respondent has unduly and illicitly cancelled the employment contract without advancing any reasons and/or giving me an opportunity to make representations.
“I am liable to all the salaries for the remaining contract period, rights and privileges including payment of all my gratuities, payment of my pensions by the respondents, payment of a non-taxable housing allowance, payment of non-taxable water and sanitation, electricity usage, home telephone usage, cellphone usage, the purchase and handing over of a new Lexus Es 250 and/or any vehicle of the value and quality which I was liable to use as an official car,” Mr Hlalele states.