LESOTHO’S Assistant Consular Attaché to South Africa, Molibetsane Mafethe, has filed an urgent High Court application to stop the government from terminating his employment and recalling him from South Africa.
Mr Mafethe was posted to Klerksdorp in May 2017 by then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on three-year contract up to May 2020. He argues that his contract was automatically renewed by the previous Thomas Thabane administration when he applied for its extension in January 2020.
The basis for the rather bizarre reasoning is that when he applied for the renewal of his contract, he stated he owed some money to consulate and that money should be deducted from his salary “such that when I leave the consulate, I do not have a debt”.
“I aver that in January 2020 I wrote the letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. I was applying for extension. I must inform the court that I also stated that the money that I owed the Consulate should be deducted from salary and it should be done such that when I leave the consulate, I do not have a debt.
“This happened and deductions were made from salary. I legitimately assumed that I had been granted the renewal. I submit that I am in law entitled to assume the renewal in the circumstances and it should be declared so by the court,” Mr Mafethe bizarrely argues.
The principal secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, the Ministry of Public Service, Consul General Majoro Mohapi and the Attorney General are the first to fifth respondents respectively in the application.
At the time of the foreign affairs PS was ‘Mamonyane Bohloko. She has since been replaced by Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae
Mr Mafethe states that despite his “legitimate” assumption that his contract had been renewed, the current government has moved to terminate his employment and recall him from South Africa.
He says he first received a letter from the government on 23 March 2020 “which talked about the end of the contract”.
He said he called the office of then PS Bohloko and he was told to await further correspondence on the issue.
He says he was “shocked” to receive another letter on 1 May 2020 which stated his employment was being terminated and he would only be allowed to remain at the consulate until 31 July 2020 due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
This was presumably because South Africa had closed its borders and international travel was highly restricted as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Upon receiving the letter, he says he again telephoned the office of PS Bohloko and he was allegedly told his issue was still under consideration.
“I must inform the court that sometime around July 2020, I received a letter from the Consul General Mohapi, which requested the list of my personal property. I did inform him that I am legitimately expecting the renewal. I called to his attention that he cannot purport to terminate my service as he is not the appointing authority.
“He (Mohapi) stated that he will communicate with the first respondent (foreign affairs PS). I aver that while I was waiting for further correspondence from the first respondent (PS)’s office, I was served with…a-without-hearing-letter of my re-assignment and recall from the Foreign Service…with immediate effect.
“My immediate re-assignment and recall is therefore highly prejudicial from a social, financial and family welfare perspective. The said recall or reassignment is illegal as it is done without the involvement of the Ministry of Public Service…,” Mr Mafethe states.
He therefore wants the court to declare his recall “unlawful, null and void”.
He wants the court to declare that his tenure of office has been automatically renewed by a further thirty-six months.
In the event that the government insists on recalling him, he wants the court to order it to pay him an amount equivalent to his thirty-six months’ salary.
Mr Mafethe is not the only government official to sue the Majoro administration for the termination of his employment. Former PSs ‘Mabotle Damane (Communications, Science and Technology Ministry), ‘Maseithati Mabeleng (Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation) and Mothabathe Hlalele (Public Works) all have pending court applications challenging the non-renewal of their contracts after they expired at different times this year.