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NSS officers in court to fight for better pay

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

Mohalenyane Phakela

EIGHT National Security Service (NSS) officers have gone to court to fight for salary structures that are equal to those of other three uniformed disciplines; the army, police and correctional service.

They have asked the High Court to order the government to review the NSS’s salary structures to put them at par with those of the other three security agencies.  They claim they are paid less than the police and the army yet their roles in achieving national security are similar.

Although the application has not been filed by the NSS director general, Phello Ralenkoane nor at his request, it is going to benefit Mr Ralenkoane and the entire NSS staff if the eight win their case.

For instance, Mr Ralenkoane and the Lesotho Correctional Service commissioner, Mating Nkakala, earn an annual gross salary of M456 636 each while the army commander and police commissioner earn M521 256 each.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Employment, and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the two respondents respectively in the application.

The eight NSS officers who are applicants in this matter are Lesole Sehlabo, Toka Mokonyane, Mothobi Mphutlane, Makananelo Khoza, Tumelo Thamae, Makhoakhoa Thabane, Tieho ‘Meke and ‘Mampati Relebohile Mosisili-Thamae.

Mr Sehlabo has submitted a founding affidavit on behalf of his co-applicants in which they argue that in 2013, the then ministry of labour and employment had noted  the anomaly in the government’s salary structures wherein  civil servants  appear under the same employment grade but earn  different salaries. She attached a memorandum from then principal secretary, Machabana Lemphane-Letsie, in which she advised her counterparts at different government ministries to revise the salary structures in order to fix the anomality.

“There is unfair discrimination and unjustified differentiation between the NSS and other disciplined forces. The NSS is being unfairly discriminated against and there is no justification as to why security institutions are treated differently,” Mr Sehlabo states in his founding affidavit.

“l aver that it can be concluded that there is no rationale policy justifying why the respondents have decided to treat the NSS differently from the LDF, LCS and the LMPS when it comes to remuneration grades.

“The conduct of the first respondent is not justified in a democratic society based on principles of equality. It is clear that when the first respondent made a policy decision in 2013 to normalize positions and regrade them accordingly, the purpose was to seek to synchronise overlaps and ensure that officers are remunerated commensurate with their qualifications, experience and placement.

“The discrimination is in contravention of the provisions of section 18(2) of the Constitution. The first respondent has also contravened section 19 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law by this continued unfair and discriminatory treatment of the NSS as compared to other disciplined forces.”

They also argue that former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s 2019 cabinet had resolved to harmonise the salaries of the four security agencies. The eight therefore want the High Court to force the government to implement the 2019 resolution of the cabinet.

“On 9 August 2019 the cabinet resolved that the members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the NSS, the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) must be paid equal and similar salaries. The Government Secretary (then Moahloli Mphaka) in that regard communicated the decision of the cabinet to the relevant ministries to which the security agencies are answerable.

“The applicants entertained the legitimate expectation that the harmonization would be effected to end the unfair and discriminatory treatment. I aver that our expectations are legitimate and reasonable because of the anticipated consistency with the promises that were made in 2013 by the principal secretary (Lemphane-Letsie) acting by virtue of the provisions of the Public Service Act.

“I aver that correspondence was made by our legal representatives of record requesting the first respondent to implement the harmonisation of salaries and this was a follow up from various fruitless meetings which we had with the first respondent’s minister (Richard Ramoeletsi) and different stakeholders.”

The eight NSS officers therefore want the High Court to order that the NSS be graded at par with their counterparts in the police and the army. They also want a back-payment of their salary differences from September 2019, being a month following the alleged 9 August 2019 cabinet decision that the disciplined forces salaries be harmonised.

They the High Court to declare “that the applicants should be accorded the same remuneration, benefits and other privileges enjoyed by other officers holding similarly graded positions in the LDF, LMPS and the LCS with effect from 1 September 2019 and the respondents to be ordered to pay the applicants’ salary arrears and other benefits with effect from the date (1 September 2019).”

The NSS officers first fought for their salary increments in September 2019, a month after the cabinet decision to equalise the salaries of all disciplined forces. They assembled outside their office building in Maseru and briefly blocked the road before being dispersed by the police. Thereafter they refused to work and well-placed sources had said their unannounced strike caused panic within government, forcing Mr Thabane to summon Mr Ralenkoane to an emergency meeting to brief him on the situation. The NSS officers soon thereafter resumed duties after they were told Mr Thabane had promised to address their grievances. However, it seems that there was no change effected from then to date.