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NSS recruitment raises stink

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Bereng Mpaki

THE National Security Services (NSS) has come under fire from the public for allegedly politicising the recruitment of new officers.
This after the spy agency on Monday announced that it had recruited 80 new officers. Of these, 43 are from Maseru while the remaining 37 are drawn from the country’s other nine districts. Eleven are from Leribe, eight from Mafeteng, Berea and Mohale’s Hoek have four each, Quthing has five, Mokhotlong has two while Butha-Buthe, Thaba Tseka and Qacha’s Nek have one each.
This has provoked an outcry from some members of the public who allege that politics is at play in the recruitment of mostly Maseru people at the expense of other districts.
People who spoke to the Sunday Express over the weekend said the timing of the recruitment, with just a few months to go before the eagerly anticipated elections, suggested that the officers could be used to further the political interests of the main governing party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC).
The NSS falls under the Ministry of Defence and National Security which is headed by ABC legislator, Halebonoe Setšabi. However, Mr Setšabi insists the recruitment is above board.
The NSS had in March 2021, invited applications from people aged from 18 to 30 years to join its ranks. On Monday, it announced that 80 candidates had been successful and these should immediately report to NSS offices in various districts to begin work. The 80 were chosen after completing written and oral interviews that were conducted last month.
The Monday announcement of the final list of successful applicants has provoked an outcry from people questioning the fairness of the selection process.
“How does one explain that most of the recruits are from Maseru, a stronghold of the ABC? How could these have been better than candidates from other districts? What criteria set them apart, other than their political affiliation or cronyism and nepotism,” asked an NSS source on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
Another individual questioned what he said was the speed with which the NSS had finalised the recruitment exercise. He said there is no way that a proper recruitment exercise could have been concluded in just a matter of days since the candidates were only interviewed late last month.
Another source said he was aware of applicants who had been recruited despite that they had not attended the interviews.
However, Minister Setšabi insisted that the recruitment was above board. He said Maseru had more successful applicants for the simple reason than they performed better than their counterparts from other districts.
“As far as I know, the process was above board and there was no political influence in the recruitment of NSS officers. We did everything to ensure that the recruitment was transparent and free from political interference.
“I wouldn’t want to taint the image of the NSS with an irregular recruitment exercise. In any event, I would have to face the consequences at a later stage when I am no longer minister hence why I would never allow an unprocedural recruitment.
“The only criteria was the performance of the applicants in the interviews and nothing else. Some of the recruits who are said to be from Maseru may not even be from there. They may just be living in the district because of work and school commitments,” Mr Setsabi said.
This is not the first time that the NSS recruitment has been mired in controversy.
In 2018, 77 NSS officers were fired by the NSS on the grounds that they had been unprocedurally recruited. The 77 had been hired by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition which ruled the country from 2015 to 2017. They were fired by the previous Thomas Thabane administration which was in power from June 2017 to May 2020.
The officers then dragged the NSS to court demanding to be reinstated.
In May 2019, the High Court ruled that NSS had acted unlawfully by terminating their employment. NSS director general, Pheello Ralenkoane, appealed against the now retired Judge Semapo Peete’s verdict. The Court of Appeal referred the matter back to the High Court to be heard by a different judge. This on the grounds that Justice Peete had based his judgement on preliminary issues rather the merits of the case.
In general, the recruitment into the security agencies has always been a source of controversy amid allegations that it is always done on partisan lines.
In 2018, Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, sensationally alleged that he had been party to the “corrupt act” of recruiting 250 police officers from supporters of his former Democratic Congress (DC) party and its then allies in the then Mosisili-led coalition in 2016.
“I am one of the people within government that made 22 000 young men and women of this country to wait for long hours in the sun with hope they would get jobs when we knew we already had our people listed somewhere for the police jobs.
“I dare Ntate Mosisili and company to tell me I am lying over this. We did this together. We received 22 000 applications from across the country when there were only 250 vacancies available at the PTC,” Mr Moleleki said at the time. Mr Mosisili however, denied the allegations.
In February 2021, the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) accused the police command of corruptly recruiting people to the police force.
Four of the police recruits died amid allegations that they had not been vetted or even undergone the mandatory medical examinations before being subjected to the gruelling physical training.

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