MPs played role in controversial recruitment

MPs played role in controversial recruitment

MASERU – CERTAIN Members of Parliament could have played a crucial role in the controversial recruitment of some of the National Identity and Civil Registration (NICR) employees.

This was revealed during the High Court hearing of a case in which 300 former employees of the NICR are suing the Ministry of Home Affairs for terminating their contracts.
Their contracts ended on February 28, after which they got an interim order barring the ministry from hiring more people for the NICR.

Yesterday their lawyers told High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi that there was something amiss with the way their colleagues were hired.
The court heard that instead some of those whose contracts were renewed had been informed by some MPs that they had been rehired.

The names of the MPs involved in the recruitment were however not revealed in court. The former employees argue that the ministry was supposed to notify them before their contracts were terminated.

They claim that the ministry only told them of the decision after cancelling their contracts.
They claim that they had a legitimate expectation that their employment was continuing because the ministry did not tell them that their contracts would not be renewed.
The ministry however argued that they were hired on a 17-month contract that was later extended by six months. It claims that the contracts were extended two more times before they were terminated.

The ministry said it had meetings with the workers to inform them that their contracts would not be renewed.
At that meeting, the court heard, the ministry also thanked the staff for their service.

It was said the principal secretary of the Ministry Advocate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela told the staff that some of their contracts would be renewed while others would not.
The employees were also notified of the impending expiry of their contracts on February 17, some nine days before the termination date.

The ministry argues that the interim court order the staff obtained had blocked the government from hiring new staff for the NICR department.
It also argues that the application should not be treated as urgent as the applicants have insisted.

If the case was urgent, the ministry argues, they should have approached the court on March 1 when their contracts ended.
The application was lodged on March 6.

“If this order still stands, this means birth certificates and identification documents issuance will stop,” the ministry’s lawyer Advocate Seteka said.
Seteka indicated that there were other remedies that the applicants would have sought than lodging this ‘pressing’ court order.
She asked the court to discharge the order with costs.

Advocate Pheko, the applicants’ lawyer, told the court that Sekonyela had agreed in his affidavit that the matter is urgent.
“They agree with us but later turn out to disagree,” Pheko said.

“We told them that this matter is very urgent and it would be prejudicial to both applicants and respondents (if not treated urgently),” she said.
Pheko indicated that Sekonyela went to all the districts telling the applicants that some of them would be re-hired while others would not be.
She argued that some of the NICR staff got the phone calls from the MPs telling them that they had been re-hired.

This, she said, was abnormal because only the ministry’s human resource office had that information and should have informed the workers.
Advocate Kao who also appeared for the workers said their clients were informed that some of them would be re-hired based on performance.

Majara Molupe

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