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Fired NSS officers await reinstatement judgement

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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Moorosi Tsiane

THE High Court will on 12 August 2022 deliver judgement in a case in which 77 National Security Services (NSS) officers are challenging their January 2018 dismissal.

The officers were appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition government in 2016, but they were fired by the Thomas Thabane’s coalition allegedly because they had been hired on political grounds.

The officers, through their legal representative Motiea Teele (King’s Counsel) then approached the High Court to challenge their dismissal and they eventually won their case in May 2019.

Justice Semapo Peete ruled that Director-General of the NSS, Pheello Ralenkoane, had acted unlawfully by terminating their employment. This after he had first referred the matter to the NSS Board of Inquiry citing that there were some confidential issues relating to the officers which could not be brought before the High Court.

However, Mr Ralenkoane appealed the judgement and the case was heard in 2019. After hearing the case, the apex court then referred the matter back to the High Court and ordered it to be heard by a different judge.

The case was then heard by Justice Keketso Moahloli in March 2021. He is yet to deliver judgement. That is why the officers were back in court this week.

“We have gathered here today to plead with the judge to deliver the judgement. The courts are failing us,” said one of the expelled officers, Mamello Lenyane.

Ms Lenyane told the Lesotho Times that they exhausted different possible measures to try and seek intervention but without success.

“We have written to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, his deputy Mathibeli Mokhothu, Law and Justice Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, Defence and National Security Minister, Halebonoe Setšabi, the United Nations, United States Embassy, Christian Council of Lesotho and the then Ombudsman Tšeliso Joakim Mokoko, but we did not get any help,” she said.

Nthejane Ntšihlele who is also part of the fired group said they were struggling to make ends meet as their unexpected dismissal had left them in debt.

Mr Ntsihlele said they met with the deputy registrar, Lesitsi Mokeke, who informed them that Justice Moahloli would deliver the judgement on 12 August 2022.

He said the delay in passing judgement was taking a toll on them.

One of them even ended up committing suicide, he said.

“It has been a very frustrating five years for us. Unfortunately, one of us, Makopoi Masupha, could not bear the pressure and she decided to take her life in 2018.

“I also lost a grandmother who suffered a stroke after she heard that I had been expelled. I was a bread winner in a family of nine. We are hoping that the case will be concluded next week but if this doesn’t happen we will have to explore other means. We are not afraid of anything.

“Why should we be denied a chance to work for our families just like any one in this country yet we are all Basotho? That is also what we want to know. Why should we be expelled after undergoing the required training?” he fumed.

The late Masupha’s guardian, Manapo Sello, was also at the court representing her late granddaughter together with about 30 of the expelled officers.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, Ms Sello said the deceased was always depressed and kept to herself after she was fired from work.

“She was very happy after she got the job. She was working in Teyateyaneng but was later transferred to Mapoteng. Shortly after the transfer she told me that she had been expelled. From then on things were never the same as she would always seat by herself looking miserable.

“She was not coping at all. Then one day she decided to shoot herself to death. We lost a bread winner in the family,” she said.

Ms Sello said they informed the NSS about Masupha’s death but they never bothered to reply or show up for the funeral.