THE High Court has set 20 April 2018 for arguments in a case in which 77 National Security Services (NSS) officers are seeking reinstatement to the spy agency after being fired in January.
The case had been due to begin on Monday but it had to be rescheduled to 20 April after the lawyers representing the NSS officers and the government, only dealt with the preparatory issues before the High Court judge, Justice Semapo Peete, on Monday.
The officers were hired during the tenure of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili who headed a seven party coalition government from 2015 until the June 2017 snap national elections which ushered in a new four party regime headed by Thomas Thabane.
The NSS officers were fired with effect from 1 January 2018 on the grounds that their employment was “irregular”.
Part of the letter confirming the termination of their employment states that, “After considering your irregular employment into the National Security Service (NSS) … take notice that you are hereby discharged from the service with effect from 1 January 2018”.
In the notice of motion they filed in the High Court on 26 February this year, the dismissed officers want the court to declare their expulsion as “null and void and of no force in law”.
They also want the court to order their reinstatement with full payment from February as they allege they were last paid in January .
The Director-General of the NSS Pheello Ralenkoane; the Minister of Defence and Security Sentje Lebona; the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Attorney General are the first to fourth respondents respectively.
According to an affidavit by one of the dismissed officers, Lietsiso Mothala, “During August 2017 the first respondent wrote letters requiring us to ‘show cause’ why he should not terminate our employment with the NSS”.
“We have been legally advised and verily believe the same to be correct that the Director General NSS or any of the respondents cannot lawfully terminate our contracts which were concluded before first respondent occupied office or at all because our employment was done by the appropriate authorities of the NSS before the present Director NSS could occupy office.
“Following our employment we all signed contracts of employment and were allocated employment numbers in the public service. We were also deployed at various posts in the NSS in different districts and earned a monthly salary.”
Mothala adds: “The Director General NSS has no lawful authority to change what his predecessor has done merely because he does not agree with it”.
The dismissed officers allege that only a court of law can set aside the employment contracts they signed with the government.
“By writing us letters to ‘show cause’ why our employment cannot be terminated, preparing lists and convening interviews, in which applicants already are employed, the Director NSS was purporting to treat our employment as non-existent and of no effect. He was clearly acting unlawfully in the circumstances,” Mothala alleges.