MASERU — At least 16 State House employees were on Monday relieved of their duties in a move they say was politically motivated.
The employees alleged they were unfairly dismissed for being members of the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party.
One of the workers’ representatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said they were told on Monday afternoon that their services were no longer required.
Most of those released were working in the laundry room, kitchen and the garden. The majority were cleaners, according to the representative.
The representative said a female senior supervisor in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s home administration told them on Monday afternoon that she had been ordered to let them go.
She said the senior supervisor told them that Thabane’s personal secretary, Pelele Nkhasi, had sent her to tell them “not to come back to work the following day”.
“We were about to finish work for the day when she (senior supervisor) said Nkhasi had ordered her to tell us that we have been expelled from work. She said we were no longer expected to come to work. There was no explanation why we were expelled,” she said.
“We demanded that we meet Nkhasi but she told us that he said he was afraid to look us in the eye.”
They did not report to work the following day.
Yesterday some of the employees went to the State House to demand letters of dismissal and further explanation for their dismissal.
“When we got to the State House we discovered that our positions had already been filled. There were workers everywhere doing the work we used to do. We demanded the dismissal letters but we were sent to the Cabinet human resources office.”
Officials at the human resources office allegedly told them that they could not get dismissal letters because they were not formally employed.
“We were told that we were not even on the payroll and that it was a mere favour that we are still receiving our monthly salaries because we did not have contracts,” she said.
“The officer who spoke to us said he was not even sure if we were going to get our salaries for this month.”
The group had been employed during the tenure of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
They had been told that their contracts would be terminated once Mosisili leaves State House.
She said after Mosisili left State House they were re-employed and continued to work after Thabane moved in.
“We were given forms to fill in our details. We were never given contracts to sign.”
“When we asked when we would be given the contracts we were told that the person who was supposed to give us the contracts also had to renew theirs before we could sign ours,” she said.
Yesterday some of the workers regrouped and took their case to the labour department at the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
They are alleging that they were unfairly dismissed.
“The labour officers called the Cabinet human resources office and Nkhasi but their phones were not answered. They wrote a letter to the human resources to report to the labour offices for a meeting on Thursday (today).”
“One of us delivered the letter the same day it was written.
“We just want them to explain to us why we were expelled from our jobs. We want written letters of dismissal so that we can use them as proof should we need them to fight our cases. They might not recall us but they should also pay us for the three months notice.”
She however said she believes that their dismissal was politically motivated.
She claimed that prior to the decision they had been told that they were going to be fired because they were members of the Democratic Congress (DC) party.
This paper could however not verify this allegation.
Nkhasi told the Lesotho Times that he could not discuss State House affairs.
“Although the State House is a government property, it is currently being used by The Right Honourable The Prime Minister, Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane as his private residence,” said Nkhasi’s in response to emailed questions.
“As the Private Secretary to The Prime Minister, I do not think I have the mandate to discuss issues relating to the private residence of The Prime Minister.
“However, if you need information regarding recruitment and contracts of State House staff, you may consult the HR Director at Cabinet Office as this is clearly gazetted under the benefits due to The Prime Minister. The same applies to the domestic employees of Cabinet ministers.”
Attempts to contact the Cabinet human resources director were not successful.
This paper tried to get a comment from the prime minister’s spokesperson Thabo Thakalekoala but he said the issue was beyond his jurisdiction.