TEACHERS’ unions have welcomed the High Court ruling which paves the way for the reinstatement of the chairperson of the Lesotho Teacher’s Association (LAT), Letsatsi Ntsibolane, saying it clears the way for meaningful negotiations aimed at ending their month-long strike.
On Thursday Acting High Court judge, Justice Keketso Moahloli, ordered the immediate reinstatement of Mr Ntsibolane who was fired on 30 January 2019 for allegedly neglecting his teaching duties last November and inciting teachers to go on an illegal strike.
The sacking of Mr Ntsibolane did not gone down well with the teachers who rejected the pleas of the Education ministry and the parliamentary Social Cluster, saying they would not end their latest job action which is into its fourth week unless Mr Ntsibolane was reinstated.
Justice Moahloli granted the reinstatement of Mr Ntsibolane after the letter and the Ministry of Education settled the matter out of court.
“By consent of the parties, it is hereby ordered that the applicant (Mr Ntsibolane) shall be reinstated, with immediate effect, to the teaching service and his job as a teacher at Lithabaneng High School,” Justice Moahloli’s order reads.
And the order has been welcomes by the striking teachers who have coalesced under the LAT, the Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA) to strike for salary increments and improved working conditions.
In the aftermath of the strike which commenced on 18 February 2019, the set up a ministerial committee was formed to negotiate with teachers to return to work.
The teachers however, dug in and insisted that they would only end the crippling job action if the government reinstated Mr Ntsibolane and anyone else who had been fired, committed to granting teachers an eight percent salary increment in the 2019/2020 financial year and also if the government withdrew all its legal suits against teachers.
And in a recent interview with the Sunday Express, LTTU and LeSPA spokesperson, Tšepo Lethobane, said Mr Ntsibolane’s reinstatement showed a commitment by the government to addressing the teachers’ grievances.
“We set three pre-conditions for negotiations with the government and we can say that Comrade Ntsibolane’s reinstatement is the first sign that they are willing to negotiate with us.
“However, we are not fully satisfied because it is not clear whether he will be reinstated as of 3o January when he was fired or from the moment the court order was issued. He needs his February salary which he did not get in order to pay for things such as the premiums he missed in February.
“Nonetheless, we are very happy because Comrade Ntsibolane was fired for fighting for our rights as teachers and therefore we had to stand in solidarity with him. It would not be fair if we moved forward while he stayed unemployed.”
Last November members of LAT, LTTU and LeSPA went on strike to press the government to grant them salary increments and review their working conditions.
And on 18 January 2019, Mr Ntsibolane was served with a letter requesting him to ‘show cause’ why he should not be dismissed for allegedly neglecting his teaching duties and inciting teachers to go on an ‘illegal’ strike.
He was subsequently fired on 30 January.