HIGH Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa, on Friday reserved judgment in a case where 38 appellants sacked by the Ministry of Defence and National Security are challenging their dismissal.
On 25 February 2016, Defence and National Security Principal Secretary (PS) ‘Mampho Kotelo-‘Molaoa wrote letters to 44 office assistants she alleged were hired without the approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC). They were recruited during the tripartite coalition government led by then premier Thomas Thabane.
In the letter, Ms Kotelo-‘Molaoa informed the employees they should leave the ministry by 31 March 2016.
But only 38 of the employees challenged the dismissal in the High Court on 4 March 2016. The applicants wanted the court to find that Dr Kotelo-‘Molaoa acted beyond her powers when terminating their employment.
The appellants also wanted to remain in the employ of the ministry until their case had been finalised, but Justice Teboho Moiloa on 8 March rejected their prayer.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the court heard arguments from the sacked workers’ lawyer, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, who argued the dismissal was unlawful and unfair.
Attorney Mosotho told the court his clients were “properly and legally employed” by the PSC, adding the Ministry of Public Service also gave them employment numbers that enabled them to earn their salaries as public servants for two years.
The solicitor said proper procedures were followed in hiring them, including advertising the vacant positions for which his clients duly applied.
He said Ms Kotelo-‘Molaoa “had no authority and or right” to dismiss the workers under the allegation they were not properly employed.
“The same PS ought to have approached the courts of law and instead demanded that a review be made over their employment processes.”
Attorney Mosotho added the respondents, Ms Kotelo-‘Molaoa, Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe and the PSC respectively, “cannot go about claiming no knowledge of my clients and how they were employed without explaining how they got to be furnished with employment numbers and earning their salaries if they truly don’t consider them as public servants”.
However, the lawyers representing the respondents, King’s Counsel (KC) Advocate Motiea Teele and Advocate Karabo Mohau KC, counter-argued the fired staffers were not properly appointed by either the ministry or the PSC
Advocate Teele KC submitted the appellants had failed to prove their appointment was legal.
“Instead, they revealed a fraudulent process that might have happened while they were put into office and ended up earning salaries they should have not earned. This should be investigated further,” he said.
For his part, Advocate Mohau KC said the PSC was the only agency legally authorised to confirm the appointment of public officers. He said the PSC could only delegate such powers to another agency in writing.
“In the present case, the PSC was never involved in any manner or form in the employment of any of the applicants, and that is clear evidence of the contravention of Section 137 of the Constitution that empowers the PSC to appoint public officers,” added Advocate Mohau (KC).
Justice Moiloa then announced his judgement was reserved until further notice by the court.