By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is engaged in what appears to be a marathon of a legal fight over the reinstatement of its axed Public Relations Manager, Tuoe Hantši. 

This after the Commission filed an urgent application last week in the Labour Appeal Court petitioning this court to stay the ruling made by the Labour Court that the disciplinary hearing that resulted in Hantši’s dismissal is null and void.

The Labour Appeal Court has since referred IEC to lodge their stay application in the Labour Court.

In this case the applicants are the Director of Elections, IEC and the Chairman of the Disciplinary Hearing being the first to third applicants respectively while Hantši is the respondent.

IEC wants the Labour Appeal Court to stay the ruling of the Labour Court that ordered that the disciplinary hearing for Hantši by his employer, IEC start de novo, that is afresh.

In its urgent application, IEC prays that the Labour Appeal Court stays the execution of the Labour Court pending the finalization of the appeal.

The ruling on IEC’s stay application will be issued in two weeks’ time.

The Director of Elections Advocate Mpaiphele Maqutu and the Public Relations Manager seemed to have a strained relationship. Tensions seemed to have heightened when the latter allegedly skipped the disciplinary hearing when summoned by the Director, marking the breaking point.

Meanwhile, this publication had learnt that Hantši was during the time of the disciplinary assisting a person who had come to seek services at the Commission and when he entered in the hearing his alibi was denied the chance to testify of Hantši whereabouts at the time of the disciplinary meeting.

IEC had staged the disciplinary hearing for Hantši, and in that hearing Hantši was not afforded a right to be represented by a legal representation of his choice.

“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.

The Labour Court ruling had also reinstated Hantši to work after it ordered that the disciplinary proceedings be conducted from afresh. 

In accordance with this ruling, he then reported to work, but was refused entry.

When met with this resistance by his employer, the applicant petitioned the court filing an application for contempt of the Labour Court’s ruling allegedly committed by the Commission.

The contempt case will be heard on October 6.

The Labour Court in its ruling had ordered that: “The disciplinary enquiry against the applicant [Hantši] that proceeded on the 11th August 2023 be stayed pending finalisation hereof.

“Third respondent’s [Chairman of the Disciplinary Hearing] role of chairmanship including that of making a recommendation or finding on the outcome of the disciplinary hearing against the applicant be stayed pending the determination of this application.

“The disciplinary proceedings instigated against the applicant held on the 28th June up to and including the 11th August 2023 be directed to start de novo with him having legal representation of his choice.”

This case has seen numerous interlocutory and fresh applications by the conflicting parties, and it is likely to take a considerable amount of time to conclude.

As previously shown, the determination will be made on the stay of execution of the Labour Court judgment,  following that ruling both parties will be expected to file the supporting and opposing documents after the date for hearing has been set down by the court.