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Judgment in police officers’ case reserved

Nat Molomo

MASERU — The High Court has reserved judgment in a case in which 11 police officers are suing their boss ’Malejaka Letooane for refusing to promote them.

The ruling will be delivered on March 22.

The applicants filed an application in the High Court seeking an order compelling Letooane to pay them salaries in line with their new academic qualifications.

The junior police officers are Moeketsi Mahetlane, Moshe Koatja, Masiphole Nthoalo, Phethisang Luka, Retšelisitsoe Molaoli, Katiso Fothoane, Motloli Morapeli, Thabo Doti, ‘Mapaballo Matseletsele, Lehlohonolo Borotho and Teboho Modia.

They allege Letooane refused to promote them to a higher rank even when they had satisfied the academic requirements by acquiring university degrees.

They want an order to force Letooane to promote them in terms of the police promotions policy that was in effect when they were recruited and when they attained their university degrees.

Letooane changed the policy last year after the constables lodged the case in the High Court.

The police commissioner’s lawyer, Makhele Sekati, argued before Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane on Thursday that the policy that was in effect when the applicants obtained their university degrees was unlawful.

Sekati argued that their application should be dismissed.

He submitted that the promotion policy cited by the applicants in which other policemen were promoted “seemed to be unlawful”.

Sekati said the question was whether or not “prior 2010 the LMPS promotion policy was in conformity with the laws of the country”.

“If it was not in conformity with the law, is it unlawful to stop its implementation?” Sekati asked in his submission.

He also said the applicants’ case is that since they are degree holders, they must automatically be promoted to senior positions on the basis of the previous LMPS promotion policy.

Sekati argued that for the police officers to get a salary increment, one must hold a position senior to the one he currently holds and must hold a higher educational qualification.

He said the minister of public service is the overall authority in the determination and development on employment policy with the government, and his decision will be in line with the laws governing the public service.

“We further submit that the public service laws are applicable across the spectrum of the public service generally except in cases where there is a specific law governing a particular sector or issue,” Sekati said.

In papers filed in court the applicants showed that the then public service principal secretary Semano Sekatle, who is the current minister in the same ministry, in 2000 issued a circular that said degree holders would be paid according to their academic qualifications.

The circular said new entrants in the public service who held university degrees would be paid at Grade F and those who were already serving and were being paid at Grade E would be pushed up to Grade F.

They said Letooane ignored this directive when she declined to promote them and increase their salaries after they obtained university degrees.

They also charged that Letooane, her deputy, Kizito Mhlakaza, were promoted soon after they were recruited because they had university degrees.

The applicants also said Letooane promoted 15 junior police officers to the ranks of inspectors and sergeants after she declined to promote them. 

On behalf of the applicants, Advocate Letuka Molati, submitted that the applicants have between nine and 20 years experience in the police service and one of them has a Masters degree and had legitimate expectation that they would be promoted after completing their degrees.

He said neither for them had been charged of any misconduct or ill-discipline.

Molati said it was surprising that Letooane suspended the policy after she and her deputies had benefited from it.

“The applicants went to study with expectation that when they hold university degrees they would be promoted to Grade F,” he said.

He argued that having gone to further their studies and obtained university degrees, they expected to be promoted and be paid salaries commensurate with their academic qualifications.

Judgment in the matter will be delivered on March 22.

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