Justice for the NSS Squad of 2016

Justice for the NSS Squad of 2016

In 2016 over 80 recruits were hired by the National Security Service (NSS) as permanent and pensionable employees. As I write this article this NSS Squad of 2016 are unemployed and are involved in a never ending legal battle.

I am writing about them today because these are our family members, brothers, sisters and friends and I strongly believe it is about time we should demand that justice be served on these individuals without any delays.

Since this was a large group they were divided into three groups for training. NSS training takes six months. The training includes intelligence gathering and physical training. However for the NSS Squad of 2016 it was three months of physical training and intelligence and the other three months for field practicals.

The team successfully completed their training and were given certificates at end of the duration of the course. They were excited and looked forward to serving their country. However, the other third group of more than 30 recruits did not get their certificates because their employment was brutally terminated by the successor of Tumo Lekhooa, the current NSS Director General Pheello Ralenkoane who was appointed by the Thabane administration after he lost the Kolo constituency under the Basotho National Party (BNP) flag in the 2017 general elections.

Ralenkoane was then a retired NSS personnel when he contested for the elections!
The NSS Squad of 2016 went under all legal procedures to finally be signed as NSS personnel, which included oral and written interviews and medical examinations. Their trouble started in July 2017 after the appointment of Ralenkoane.

There were changes that were made in the allocation of duties. This particular group was excluded from certain duties and in other instances they were not given any duties and were commanded to stay within their work premises. They were given only 30 minutes of lunchtime.

It was becoming clear that trouble was coming their way and very unfortunately they started hearing rumours that they were going to be fired but did not consider those rumours. How could they be dismissed without having breached any of the regulations of their service? The rumours eventually came true after working in a bitterly and unfriendly environment.

In September 2017, after several months of being rendered useless in service because they were never given duties, 80 percent of the NSS Squad of 2016 received show cause letters that needed to be responded to within seven days. That 80% got legal advice not to respond to those letters but rather seek for a legal representative who would answer those letters. They were all represented by KC Motia Teele who responded to those letters.

After three weeks, they were ordered verbally not to report to work until further notice. After two weeks of staying at home, they were called to report at work only to find out they were going to receive dismissal letters.
When the 80% was given the show cause why letters, the remaining 20 % were called to report for interviews which they were also legally advised not to attend since they all attended the interviews before they were recruited.

When they were given the dismissal letters, those who were called for interviews were given show cause why letter, though they were already on duty. After two weeks they were also ordered not to report for work. Several days passed, they were also given dismissal letters. All this mess started from July to November where they were officially dismissed. It will interest you to note that though they were dismissed they still got salaries for the next three months until February 2018 when the NSS Squad of 2016 unfortunately did not receive SMS notification from their banks on their phones.

In April 2018 in the High Court of Lesotho the NSS Squad of 2016 case commenced before Justice Peete. Their case was argued for more than a year. In their argument the NSS lawyer Advocate Rasekoai raised very important points. He stated that some of the recruits were highly qualified. Indeed this was intentionally done. There were some who were over-qualified as per the recruit notice.
The former Director General Lekhooa wanted to reform the NSS practices, e.g. there were IT graduates who had been hired. This needed to be done because we are in the fourth industrial revolution and that’s the technological world and the NSS desperately needs special skills if they are to operate effectively.

Others were few individuals who did accounting, which is a very important skill for tracing down of government finances. 
The NSS used to hire people with C.O.S.C certificates which came to the attention of the then management that it does not benefit the national security sector so they decided to change the system. The NSS Squad of 2016 were given very special training compared to those who came before.

In March 2019, judgement came out saying the NSS Squad of 2016 must be reinstated and be paid for all those months they did not get paid because the management had no right to stop their salaries without a court order. The government was also ordered to compensate the applicants for all the court damages.

The government later appealed the judgement. The Appeal Court judgement stated that the case should go back to the High Court under a different judge. It has been three years now since the NSS Squad of 2016 got out of service. I hope and pray that the NSS Squad of 2016 can get justice.

These are people who should have been treated with dignity and respect.
These people were not only dismissed unfairly but they were bullied and harassed. The NSS Squad of 2016 is still to receive complete justice for the tragic loss of employment they now face. It is clear that the legal redress to the injured NSS Squad of 2016 is not forthcoming in a timely fashion. Therefore, justice delayed is justice denied.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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