SEVENTY-SEVEN high National Security Services (NSS) officers will on Friday learn whether or not their fight against their dismissal by the Thomas Thabane administration succeeds.
On that day, High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete is expected to deliver judgement in the case in which the 77 officers are challenging their January 2018 dismissal from the national spy organisation.
The ex-intelligence officers filed the case in the High Court in 26 February 2018. They argue that they were illegally dismissed and want the court to order their reinstatement to the spy agency.
On Thursday, Justice Peete dealt the government a blow by rejecting its attempt to file a counter application which sought to argue that the officers were hired on political grounds by the previous administration and therefore their dismissal was justified.
The matter was heard in chambers but soon afterwards, the applicants’ lawyer, King’s Counsel, Moteea Teele, told the Sunday Express that Justice Peete had reserved judgement to the 29th of March 2019.
“We notified the respondents’ legal representatives way back in 2018 about our intention to challenge the dismissal of the officers and the case was subsequently argued on the basis of our application,” Teele KC said, adding, “It is only recently that they (the respondents) attempted to file a counter application to motivate their arguments”.
“We do not understand why they had to wait so long to file a counter application. However, the judge rejected it (the attempts to file a counter application) and he (Justice Peete) said he will deliver the judgement on Friday 29 March 2019.”
The officers were hired during the tenure of former Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, who headed a seven-party coalition government from 2015 until the June 2017 snap national elections which ushered in the four-party regime headed by Thomas Thabane.
The NSS officers were expelled with effect from 1 January 2018 on the grounds that their employment was “irregular”.
Part of the letter confirming the termination of their employment states that, “After considering your irregular employment into the National Security Service (NSS) … take notice that you are hereby discharged from the service with effect from 1 January 2018”.
In the notice of motion they filed in the High Court on 26 February last year, the dismissed officers asked the court to declare their expulsion as “null and void and of no force in law”.
They also asked the court to order their reinstatement with full payment from February as they allege they were last paid in January 2018.
The Director-General of the NSS, Pheello Ralenkoane; the Minister of Defence and Security, Sentje Lebona; the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Attorney General are the first to fourth respondents respectively.
According to an affidavit by one of the dismissed officers, Lietsiso Mothala, “During August 2017 the first respondent (Director-General of the NSS) wrote letters requiring us to ‘show cause’ why he should not terminate our employment with the NSS”.
“We have been legally advised and verily believe the same to be correct that the Director General NSS or any of the respondents cannot lawfully terminate our contracts which were concluded before first respondent occupied office or at all because our employment was done by the appropriate authorities of the NSS before the present Director NSS could occupy office.
“Following our employment, we all signed contracts of employment and were allocated employment numbers in the public service. We were also deployed at various posts in the NSS in different districts and earned a monthly salary.”
Mothala adds: “The Director General NSS has no lawful authority to change what his predecessor has done merely because he does not agree with it”.
The dismissed officers allege that only a court of law can set aside the employment contracts they signed with the government.
“By writing us letters to ‘show cause’ why our employment cannot be terminated, preparing lists and convening interviews, in which applicants already are employed, the Director NSS was purporting to treat our employment as non-existent and of no effect. He was clearly acting unlawfully in the circumstances,” Mothala alleges.