Relief for diplomats
. . . as court blocks govt’s move to fire four envoys
THE High Court granted four diplomats an interim court order blocking a fresh bid by the government to terminate their contracts.
The envoys, Bothata Tsikoane (High Commissioner to India), ‘Malejaka Letooane (High Commissioner to South Africa), Mophethe Sekamane (Johannesburg Consul-General), and ‘Mabaphuthi Moorosi-Molapo (High Commissioner to Malaysia), were issued with letters dated 29 December 2015 and signed by Government Secretary Lebohang Ramohlanka asking them to “show cause” why their contracts should not be terminated.
Part of the letter written to Dr Moorosi-Molapo reads: “I am instructed to inform you, as I hereby do, that the government intends to terminate the contract of your engagement as the High Commissioner of Lesotho to Malaysia.
“Reasons for the intended termination are stated here below:
“The posts of High Commissioner, Ambassador, Permanent Representative and Consul General are political in nature.
“Appointment to the said posts is based, inter alia, on political considerations.
“Holders of those posts are the face of the ruling regime or administration in the countries to which they have been posted.
“The relationship between holders of the posts of High Commissioner, Ambassador, Permanent Representative and Consul General and the ruling regime or administration is that of utmost political trust and confidence.
“You were engaged to hold the post of High Commission by the previous ruling regime or administration.
“Your engagement was based on the trust which that regime had in you, presumably based on your political alignment with the said regime; and that regime is now the opposition to the present government.”
The letter further states that the present government did not have “trust and confidence” in Dr Moorosi-Molapo.
“You are accordingly invited to make representations, if any, why your engagement may not be terminated by invoking the provisions of clause 7 of the schedule to the engagement agreement No: MPS/P/72730 between the government and yourself,” the letter read.
Similar letters was sent to the other three diplomats on the same day. The letters gave the envoys until Monday this week to submit reasons why their contracts should not be terminated.
However, the diplomats approached the High Court on Wednesday last week on an urgent basis seeking an order to nullify the letters. The respondents were the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Government Secretary and Attorney General respectively.
In their notice of motion, the envoys sought an order stating “that it be declared that the decision of recalling applicants from their contracts of employment in the Foreign Service is a breach of contract”.
They also sought an order “that it be declared that the recall of applicants from Foreign Service is both selective and discriminatory in nature and hence unlawful.”
High Court judge Justice Kekeletso Moahloli on Monday granted the interim order. However, the case is far from over as it will be heard on 18 January 2016.
The diplomats were initially recalled through letters dated 21 August 2015, and asked to report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations headquarters on 9 November 2015.
However, the envoys opposed the recall through the High Court, arguing government had not followed due process in prematurely ending their tour of duty which started in 2012 when a new government, led by Thomas Thabane, came to power. The case was still pending before the court on 28 October when government withdrew the recall letters and “rectified” its mistake by slapping the diplomats with the “show cause” ultimatum.
The case was argued in the High Court on 10 November and the following day, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane said government should have waited for her ruling in the main case before proceeding with the “show cause” letters as a new case.
In her ruling, in favour of the diplomats on 9 December 2015, Justice Hlajoane said: “The conduct of the respondents to have written letters of show cause in the face of a pending decision is the one that prompted this court to have granted the prayers in the interlocutory application. The conduct of the respondents was bordering on contempt.
“As a result since the recall letters have been withdrawn, that ends the matter in the main case.”