NSS agents fired

NSS agents fired

MASERU – THE National Security Service (NSS) has fired thirty-six agents it says were improperly recruited by the previous government and did not get the required training. The dismissals are with effect from January 1.
NSS Director General Pheello Ralenkoane told thepost that most of those dismissed were trained by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) instead of the NSS as required by the law.

“So, it is clear that they did not know the work of the NSS but of the LDF. We need people who can keep secrets,” Ralenkoane said.
He said those trained by the army pose a security threat because they have little understanding of what it entails to be NSS agents.
thepost has seen one of the letters which says one of the grounds for the dismissal is that the agents “did not meet requisite qualification criteria as stated in the advertisement”. “The selection panel was not properly constituted during your recruitment,” the letter said.

“Furthermore, in terms of Section 11(3) of NSS No. 30 of 1998 the Director General has obtained information that you are a security risk, and you may act in a way prejudicial to the security of the state.”
“Your Basic Intelligence Training was conducted by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) as opposed to NSS, thereby exposing to methods and principles contrary to NSS.”

“The matter by itself compromises or threatens the operational methods and principles of the NSS,” the letter said.
These agents were recruited under former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s coalition government. At that time the director general was Lieutenant Colonel Tumo Lekhooa, the LDF Military Intelligence director the government had seconded to the NSS under controversial circumstances.
At that time opposition parties saw Lieutenant Colonel Lekhooa’s appointment as an attempt by the government to militarise the NSS for ulterior motives.
Last year Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired Lieutenant Colonel Lekhooa from the NSS.
Although Lieutenant Colonel Lekhooa returned to his initial position as LDF Military Intelligence director his future remains uncertain, amid speculation that he is under police investigation over crimes allegedly committed by him and his soldiers.

Ralenkoane said the other reason for firing the agents was that their recruitment was irregular.
He said the “staff board was supposed to be involved when hiring them as it is the one that advises the director to hire if there is any need”.
The selection panel was not properly constituted, he said.

“When screening them we found that they did not qualify for the job,” he said.
“Others were graduates from tertiary institutions despite that we only wanted those with high school education.”
“Others did not meet our age restrictions.”

He said the NSS wanted applicants to be between the ages of 18 and 25 with Form E qualifications, “but surprisingly some of them are over 37 years old and have extra qualifications like Masters which exceeded our budget”.
The dismissals have angered some opposition leaders who see them as part of the Thabane coalition’s plan to roll back the previous government’s appointments.

The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) secretary-general, Bokang Ramatšella, said the dismissals were an indication that the new government wants to turn the NSS into a “political institution”.“We decided to hire people with strong educational backgrounds but now they are being expelled,” Ramatšella said.

“Whoever signed those dismissal letters does not qualify for the position because he is a politician,” he said.
“This issue is going to negatively affect the reform process.”

“If those officers are not taken back to their jobs we are not going to allow reforms to take off,” he said.
Ramatšella said Lekhooa’s appointment was correctly done by the past government as he qualified in international relations and diplomacy.
“Lekhooa was also head of military intelligence so the position was suitable for him,” he said.

He also said there is nothing peculiar with people with military training joining the NSS because some “tasks require military skills”.
“Even directors of CIA, Israel and Pakistan have military background,” he said.
“There are many people left in the NSS with military training including Director Letsoepe, and Mpakane who trains NSS officers,” Ramatšella said.

He also said it is better for the NSS to hire people with military training as they can carry out critical tasks.
“They can also keep state secrets unlike civilians,” he added.

Nkheli Liphoto

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