By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU- The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) fired Public Relations (PR) Manager Tuoe Hantši and is pursuing a legal action challenging his dismissal at the Labour Court contesting his termination and to secure an interdiction.
The IEC’s PR Manager was given the marching orders following what seemed to be a long standing squabble with the Director of Elections Advocate Mpaiphele Maqutu.
This decision was reached last week by the Commission.
“Following a disciplinary hearing that was held on the 28th and 11th August 2023, where you decided, together with your Legal Representation not to continue, the Chairperson of the disciplinary hearing has found you guilty of Gross Insubordination and recommended that you be dismissed with immediate effect.
“The Commission wishes to inform you that it has considered the recommendation made by the Chairperson and accepts it as it is. Please hand over all the property that is in your possession that belongs to the Independent Electoral Commission,” reads Hantši’s dismissal letter in pertinent part.
Allegedly, the Director of Elections and PR Manager had a strained relationship. The situation escalated when the former reportedly missed the disciplinary hearing, which became the final straw.
This publication learned that Hantši was aiding an individual enquiring about the unpaid party agents and was asked to apologize along with the intern and they did.
When the disciplinary was called, the former PR Manager requested to bring his lawyer, a request that was declined but secured through the order of the court.
This publication has further learnt that the person supposedly being assisted by Hantši was prevented from testifying when the latter asked that she be a witness on his whereabouts at the time the hearing had convened.
Reportedly, the disciplinary hearing concluded at 12:30pm and at 13:30 hrs. the Commission Chairperson, Mphasa Mokhochane, had already adopted the recommendation to ax the PR Manager. Meanwhile, this swift conduct at the hearing also raised eyebrows with Hantši, as some decisions were decided while his lawyer was away to seek a court order to stay some decisions pending the finalization of the entire proceedings.
In his court papers, the former IEC’s PR Manager prays that the disciplinary hearing be put on hold until the case is complete.
The applicant asked the court to order the Commission to “show cause if any” why the following cannot be made the final order of the court;
“Third Respondent’s role of chairmanship including that of making a recommendation or findings on the outcome of the disciplinary hearing against the Applicant be pending the determination of this application.
“That any execution or application, or enforcement of the decision/outcome to be made by the second Respondent acting pursuant to the recommendation and/or report issued by the Third Respondent to the pertaining to the disciplinary hearing against the Applicant be nullified. “
The applicant is Hantši and the respondents are Director of Elections, IEC, and the Chairman of the disciplinary hearing being first to third respondents respectively.
Last year, in a lead-up to the General elections and during the elections, the Director of Elections seemingly covertly sidelined PR Manager, and recalled the Commissions retired Chief Technical Officer, Rethabile Pholo to take charge of the responsibilities typically handled by the latter.
This was manifest during the launch of the results center at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre last year where Pholo was directing the programme and during the counting and announcements of the elections results.
At a certain point, Advocate Maqutu ordered Hantši to provide the Commission’s Facebook login credentials. He then went on to modify that account to ‘Public Relations Corner’.
At the time of going to press last night, the Commission had not responded. However, Advocate Maqutu told this publication that they have already instructed their lawyers to file the answering papers.
He frowned upon the applicant’s conduct and his lawyer for serving them with the court papers at 16:50 hrs. yet the hearing was expected to be at 14:30 hrs. “We are perplexed,” he said.
The Director of Elections also accused the applicant of appearing “secretly” before the court.
Informative will publish the IEC’s papers once the Commission has responded.