THE High Court will on 9 April 2018 hear a case in which 77 National Security Service (NSS) officers are challenging their dismissal from the spy agency.
The officers, who were dismissed about two months ago, were hired during the tenure of former Prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili until his ouster in the wake of the 3 June 2017 snap national elections which ushered in a four party coalition headed by Thomas Thabane.
The 77 officers were fired with effect from 1 January 2018 because their initial hiring was “irregular”.
Part of the letter confirming the termination of their employment states that, “After considering your irregular employment into the National Security Service (NSS) for the position of Intelligence Officer Four as stipulated in the NSS Recruitment Policy of 2012, take notice that you are hereby discharged from the service with effect from 1 January 2018.”
The officers now want the High Court to declare their dismissals as “null and void and of no force in law”.
They also want the court to order their reinstatement with full pay from February as they allege they were last paid in January 2018.
The Director-General of the NSS, Pheello Ralenkoane; the Minister of Defence and Security, Sentje Lebona; the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Attorney General are the first to fourth respondents respectively.
According to an affidavit by one of the dismissed officers, Lietsiso Mothala, “During August 2017 the first respondent wrote letters requiring us to ‘show cause’ why he should not terminate our employment with the NSS.
“We have been legally advised and verily believe the same to be correct that the Director General NSS or any of the respondents cannot lawfully terminate our contracts which were concluded before first respondent occupied office….because our employment was done by the appropriate authorities of the NSS before the present Director NSS could occupy office.
“Following our employment we all signed contracts of employment and were allocated employment numbers in the public service. We were also deployed at various posts in the NSS in different districts and earned a monthly salary.”
Mothala adds: “The Director General NSS has no lawful authority to change what his predecessor has done merely because he does not agree with it”.
The dismissed officers allege that only a court of law can set aside the employment contracts they signed with the government.
“By writing us letters to ‘show cause’ why our employment cannot be terminated, preparing lists and convening interviews, in which applicants already are employed, the Director NSS was purporting to treat our employment as non-existent and of no effect. He was clearly acting unlawfully,” Mothala alleges.
The court has since ordered the respondents to file their answering affidavits by 16 March 2018, while the 77 applicants are expected to file their replying affidavits by the 23rd of March 2018.