A TOP National Security Service (NSS) official has dragged the spy agency to court after it fired him over the “unlawful” employment of 77 recruits in December 2016.
NSS assistant director, Teboho Liau, who was also a senior intelligence officer, was fired on 10 August 2022 for hiring the recruits unprocedurally.
The recruits had been hired by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition which ruled Lesotho from 2015 to 2017. They were later fired in 2017 by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government after his assumption of power post the June 2017 elections.
The officers then dragged the NSS to court demanding to be reinstated.
In May 2019, the High Court ruled that NSS had acted unlawfully by terminating their employment. NSS director general, Pheello Ralenkoane, appealed against the now retired Judge Semapo Peete’s verdict. The Court of Appeal referred the matter back to the High Court to be heard by a different judge in October 2019. This because Justice Peete had based his judgement on preliminary issues rather than the merits of the case.
The recruits’ case was then heard by Justice Keketso Moahloli who only dismissed their case on 12 August 2022 after reserving judgement in March last year.
Mr Liau was first slapped with a show cause letter on 4 December 2017 by Mr Ralenkoane who said he should be suspended for failing to obey the NSS recruitment policy. A subsequent show cause letter followed on 26 January 2018 accusing Mr Liau of failing to advise the NSS Director of Human Resource, Tau Makhalemele, to adhere to the recruitment policy.
Mr Liau was eventually suspended on 7 February 2018.
On 18 May 2020, he was further asked by Mr Ralenkoane to make representations as to why disciplinary action may not be taken against him.
“It is alleged that during the December 2016 recruitment of new (NSS) entrants, you failed to report the violation of security regulations in relation to non-vetting of some of the new entrants in line with Regulation 11(1) and (2) of the National Security Service Act 1998 in your capacity as the then human resource manager,” part of the May 2020 show cause letter read.
“The alleged misconduct is in contravention of Regulation 18(C) of the National Security Service Regulations 2020.”
Mr Liau’s matter was to be brought before the disciplinary committee on 29 April this year. He petitioned the High Court to stay the disciplinary proceedings but lost the bid on 17 June 2022.
He subsequently went to the Court of Appeal to review the High Court’s decision to reject his stay application.
Mr Liau argues that the NSS Board of Enquiry proceeded with his disciplinary hearing although his matter was still pending in the Court of Appeal. He was eventually dismissed from the NSS effective from 10 August 2022.
He then petitioned the High Court to set aside his expulsion. He argues in his 19 August 2022 application that his dismissal had been flawed.
“In analysing the disciplinary proceedings, it is clear that the tribunal failed to apply its mind to the relevant issues and facts in accordance with the behests of the statute (sic)
and the tenets of natural justice.
“There is no evidence which proves that I knew of non-vetting of new entrants. I only knew of non-vetting of new entrants when I was charged because I was not the custodian of vetting records, but the secrets office.
“I could not ensure compliance with the advertisement requirements because I was not part of the recruitment panel selected to run the process to finality. There is no evidence which outlines my duties or which links me to the charges preferred against me. This shows the board failed to apply its mind over the facts, issues and the law,” Mr Liau argues.
He says that his request to have his witness, former NSS Director Tumo Lekhooa, subpoenaed was denied and therefore prejudiced his case. Mr Lekhooa is currently a fugitive wanted for the 25 June 2015 murder of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao.
Mr Liau also argues that Mr Ralenkoane refused to furnish him with some documents which would strengthen his defence.
Some of his witnesses had passed on and therefore the proceedings were unfair to him, he claims.
“It is imperative that my dismissal be set aside so that I may properly ventilate my appeal. The fourth respondent (NSS board of enquiry) has, without just course and observing the rule of law, dismissed me from the NSS as of 10 August 2022. My livelihood has been stripped off on the basis of irregular proceedings.”