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Outcry as DCEO probes fired NSS officers

 ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE DIRECTORATE of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has launched a probe into the controversial 2017 recruitment of 89 intelligence officers by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties governing coalition.

DCEO spokesperson ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko refused to shed light on the issue saying “these are just normal investigations”.

“I can confirm that there are some investigations pertaining the expelled National Security Service (NSS) officers’ issue. This is just a normal, routine exercise like all other probes that the DCEO is mandated to do,” added Ms Senoko.

However, authoritative government sources said the anti-graft body wants to ascertain if there is any truth to the claims by the previous Thomas Thabane administration that the 89 had been unprocedurally hired on political grounds.

The investigations, which began last week, have however, sparked an outcry from some of the ex-spies who feel they are being unfairly targeted because of their political affiliations.

“This is a political witch-hunt and we are being used to fight political battles,” one of the former officers told this publication on condition of anonymity.

“I was questioned about the exact date when I was recruited as well as my political affiliation.  Throughout the interrogation, the questions were just political and I was warned not to tell anyone, not even my relatives that I had been summoned by the DCEO.”

Another ex-officer concurred, saying, “the questions were political and I was very uncomfortable”.

“I was also asked how I came to know that there were vacancies in the NSS. I pleaded to be allowed to call my lawyer before the interrogation could go any further but they told me that the probe had nothing to do with the courts and should be kept strictly confidential. Not even my lawyer or relatives were supposed to know about it, they said.”

Another former spy alleged that the DCEO is “doing the bidding of NSS director Pheello Ralenkoane as he is the one who expelled us”.

Mr Ralenkoane said he would not comment on “these unfounded allegations”.

The 89 were hired shortly before the 3 June 2017 elections which prematurely ended the tenure of the then Mosisili government.

They were later fired in January 2018 by the previous Thabane administration allegedly because they had been hired on political grounds. Tumo Lekhooa, who fled the country in 2017 alleging a government plot to assassinate him, was the NSS boss at the time the 89 were hired.

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 February 2018, petitioned the High 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 pay from February 2018 as they alleged that they were last paid in January 2018.

They eventually won their case in the High Court in May 2019 when Justice Semapo Peete ruled that Mr Ralenkoane had acted unlawfully by terminating their employment.

But Mr Ralenkoane, did not take Justice Peete’s judgement lying down and appealed to the Court of Appeal.

They have not been reinstated as the matter is pending in the apex court.

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