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Court saves recalled diplomats


Brian Chiwanza

The High Court on Wednesday saved the day for four diplomats who had been given until today by government, to “show cause” why their contracts should not be terminated.

The envoys—Bothata Tsikoane (India), ‘Malejaka Letooane (High Commissioner to South Africa), Mophethe Sekamane (Johannesburg Consul-General), and Dr ‘Mabaphuthi Moorosi-Molapo (High Commissioner to Malaysia)—had been slapped with the ultimatum through a letter dated 28 October 2015 and signed by Government Secretary Lebohang Ramohlanka.

According to the letter, the diplomats had been appointed on political grounds by the now-defunct Thomas Thabane-led government and could therefore, not be trusted to represent the current administration. Dr Thabane’s tripartite government lost power after the 28 February 2015 snap election and was replaced by a seven-party regime led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Read Mr Ramohlanka’s letter to the diplomats:  “The posts of High Commissioner, Ambassador, Permanent Representative and Consul-General are political in nature. Appointment to the said posts is based 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 and the ruling regime is that of utmost trust and confidence.

“You were engaged to hold the post by the previous ruling regime. Your engagement was based on your political alignment with the said regime and that regime is now the opposition to the present government.

“The government no longer has trust and confidence in you to properly represent it in the country or countries to which you have been posted. There is no trust that you can properly and earnestly advance policies of the now ruling regime because of your non-political alignment with the ruling regime.

“The government is, therefore, not comfortable and willing to keep you in your post in the circumstances.

“You are, accordingly, invited to make representations, if any, why your engagement may not be terminated by invoking provisions of Clause 7 of the Schedule to the engagement Agreement No: MPS/P/72730 between the government and yourself. Your representations should reach my office on or before 15 November 2015.”

However, the envoys responded by seeking a High Court interdict through their lawyer, Advocate Monaheng Seeiso Rasekoai.

In their application, the diplomats sought the case to be treated as urgent; Mr Ramohlanka to join the Foreign Affairs and International Relations minister, principal secretary and Attorney General as respondents in the case and the process initiated by the government secretary regarding the termination of their contracts stopped pending the determination of their main application.

The application in question related to a letter written by Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Tlohang Sekhamane on 21 August. In the letter, the minister had instructed the diplomats to end their tour of duty and report to head-office in Maseru on 9 November. But after the envoys had challenged the recall through the High Court, the minister withdrew the letters on 28 October but immediately issued the ultimatum, which Advocate Rasekoai challenged on 6 November.

The case was subsequently argued in the High Court on 10 November.

In his argument, Deputy Attorney General Tsebang Putsoane urged the diplomats to take advantage of the ultimate and explain why their contracts, which started in 2012, should not be terminated.

“The show-cause letter is asking them to make representations as to why their contracts cannot be terminated. This is a chance for them to show cause why they should remain in foreign land.

“There is no obstruction of justice, it’s a new matter; there is no relationship with the initial case. It is common cause the recall letter was withdrawn.”

However, in her ruling on 11 November, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, said the respondents should have waited  for her ruling in the main case before proceeding with the termination letter.

“After going through the lengthily arguments submitted by both counsel, I grant prayers for dispensation, that the government secretary be joined as fourth respondent and that the ‘show cause’ letter be set aside pending the determination of the main case,” Justice Hlajoane  said.

“As argued by the applicants that the ‘show cause’ letter is sub judice, you did not wait for me to make a decision on the main case.”

Meanwhile, Justice Hlajoane will rule on the main case on 9 December 2015.

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