SIXTEEN diplomats based in Pretoria, South Africa, are suing the government for allegedly discriminating against them by paying them in the maloti currency while Lesotho’s diplomats in other countries are paid in United States (US) dollars.
They are also suing the government for allegedly discriminating against them by denying them the right to duty-free purchases from diplomatic shops.
The 16 are Jane Lekunya, Sekoboto Molise, Sera Mphafi, Lekhoro Ralebese, Hlomohang Morokole, Katleho Mabeleng, Kali Letsoisa, Lekhooa Matlali, ‘Malika Mphofe, Ketso Kalake, ‘Malebohang Jane, Rapelang Thuoela, Molefi Matsoso, Jobo Sekautu, Molibetsane Mafethe and Keketso Makhupane. They filed their case in the Constitutional Court on 30 January 2020.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Public Service and the Attorney-General are the first to fourth respondents in the lawsuit respectively.
The case will be heard on Tuesday. In their court papers, the 16 allege that “the respondents’ conduct of affording lesser salaries due to the fact that the salaries are not paid in dollars is a flagrant violation of our constitutional right of freedom from discrimination”.
“All other Lesotho diplomats are paid their salaries in (US) dollars even those whose standards of living are way less than those in South Africa. The argument that the South African standard is not so different from Lesotho due to the fact that the (South African) Rand is equal to the Lesotho Loti cannot therefore hold water.
“If at all the living standards on South Africa did not warrant the conversion of net salaries in Lesotho-South African consulates, the third respondent (ministry of Public Services) would not instruct all government ministries to convert their subsistence allowance into US dollars when visiting South Africa…It is therefore irrational that South African mission net salaries and allowances are so converted.
According to the applicants, paying them in the Maloti currency on the grounds that it is at par with South Africa is discriminatory and they want the Ministry of Finance to be ordered to reinstate to pay their salaries and allowances in US dollars “in converted form at ruling bank rates”.
The applicants are also suing the government for allegedly discriminating against them by denying them the privilege to duty-free purchases from diplomatic shops.
This after several complaints were received of diplomats abusing the privilege to smuggle alcohol and other goods for resale in Lesotho.
However, the applicants complain that they were never consulted nor given a hearing when the government decided to revoke the duty-free purchases on 30 October 2019.
“Fellow applicants and I were never consulted and given a hearing before such adverse decisions could be made against us. The respondents’’ basis for its decision to suspend our duty-free privilege is unsubstantiated and very vague.
“The said decision is applied holistically even against innocent diplomats who have not misused the said privilege, myself and fellow applicants included.
“It is discriminatory in that all other diplomats posted Lesotho consulates across the globe are entitled to duty-free purchases in selected goods to the exclusion of the Lesotho-South African diplomats,” Mr Lekunya states in his affidavit on behalf of the applicants.