Labour minister sued over appointments
A FORMER and serving Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) officials on Friday filed an urgent Labour Appeal Court application seeking to block Labour Minister Thulo Mahlakeng from appointing two new arbitrators.
Former DDPR arbitrator Malena Lebone-Mofoka and the institution’s Senior Case Management Officer, Advocate Tšoana Malifuo Mapetla, contend the appointment of Teboho Thoso and Ratšolo Thulo as arbitrators by Advocate Mahlakeng is “discriminatory, irregular and unjustifiable” because the duo had not applied for the post in the first place.
Evidence led in court is that Ms Lebone-Mofoka and Advocate Mapetla had applied and were subsequently interviewed for the position of arbitrator, not Messrs Thoso and Thulo.
The applicants submit through their lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati, that Advocate Mahlakeng, the Labour and Employment’s Principal Secretary (PS) Karabo Tlhoeli, the ministry’s Industrial Relations Council and Attorney-General King’s Counsel (KC) Tšokolo Makhethe did not give them reasons why they were not successful “when we had legitimate expectation to be informed of the reasons why we were not successful in the interview.”
Advocate Mahlakeng, Advocate Tlhoeli, Industrial Relations Council, KC Makhethe, Messrs Thoso and Thulo are cited as first to sixth respondents respectively in the matter. According to evidence led in court Mr Thoso is currently a magistrate in Mafeteng.
The applicants want the court to determine a date on which the respondents should “show cause, if any” why they should not be stopped from signing employment contracts on permanent and pensionable terms for Messrs Thoso and Thulo.
They want Advocate Mahlakeng, Advocate Tlhoeli, the Industrial Relations Council and KC Makhethe to be ordered to submit to the registrar of the court “all documentary records of the people who had attended the employment interview for the post of arbitrator”.
The applicants seek the court to declare the employment of Messrs Thoso and Thulo by the respondents “null and void”. They also want the court to order the respondents to employ both applicants instead.
Ms Lebone-Mofoka notes in her founding affidavit that in June 2016, the Industrial Relations Council published an advert for the post of the arbitrator.
“The publication was made on the walls of the offices of the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution and the newspapers. At the time I was still working as an arbitrator in Maseru and my employment contract was due to end. I applied for the said post of arbitrator d in June 2016 which was a day before the closure date for acceptance of applications,” she says.
Ms Lebone-Mofoka states on 26 July 2016, she attended an interview at the invitation of the Industrial Relations Council secretary at the DDPR.
She says she met Advocate Mapetla during the interview.
“I also observed that the other candidates attending the interview were Ms Senooe and Ms Ntene. I aver that only four candidates attended the interview. I also observed that the posts that were vacant for the position of arbitrator were three.
“I aver that upon completion of the interviews we were told that we shall be contacted in writing about the results of the interview. We had a hope to be granted the posts in issue due to our respective curriculum vitaes which speak for themselves. I submit that none of the fifth and sixth respondents have similar or comparable qualifications as ours, that is, academic credentials and experience relevant to the work.”
Ms Lebone-Mofoka notes on 6 October 2016, they learnt that there were three people who were given offers of employment as arbitrators, namely Ms Ntene, Messrs Thoso and Thulo.
“We further learned that they were served with employment offer letters which they were expected to sign within 72 hours,” she says.
Ms Lebone-Mofoka argues Messrs Thoso and Thulo did not apply for the post.
“. . .they were not shortlisted for interview; they did not attend the interview.”
She submits the respondents’ conduct “is reviewable on the grounds that: It is unfair to offer employment to people who did not apply, get shortlisted and attend job interview.”
Ms Lebone-Mofoka also alleges Messrs Thoso and Thulo were people “well known” to Advocate Mahlakeng.
She says Mr Thoso used to work for Advocate Mahlakeng when the minister was still a practising attorney under the offices of TT Mahlakeng & Co.
“This fact is notoriously well known. Fifth respondent is presently employed as a magistrate while I am unemployed. All procedures for engagement of arbitrators were flouted. The process of offering fifth and sixth respondents employment is arbitrary and capricious.
“It is irregular in a free and democratic society based on equal opportunities to work. I submit that the matter herein is riddled with unlawfulness of great magnitude by the statutory offices of the government of Lesotho,” Ms Lebone-Mofoka contends.
Sunday Express was unable to establish the date of hearing of the case before the Labour Appeal Court at the time of going to print.