By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- The High Court sitting as the Labour Appeal Court this week ordered the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to restart the disciplinary hearing which resulted in the dismissal of its Public Relations Manager, Tuoe Hantši, as it was conducted without his lawyer present.

This ruling effectively nullifies the dismissal of Hantši, which occurred on August 11, 2023.

Delivering the judgment in which Hantši challenged his dismissal Judge Fumane Khabo rules that the Commission should start the disciplinary hearing against him denovo (from the beginning), where he will have his legal representative present.

IEC and Public Relations Manager had been engaged in a long legal battle in the Labour Court where the Public Relations Manager challenges his employee’s decision to dismiss him from work. Judge Khabo’s ruling also echoes the Labour Court’s decision that the disciplinary hearing that resulted in Hantši’s dismissal is null and void.

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

“Following a disciplinary hearing that was held on August 11th and 28th 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 from August 11, 2023.

Following that dismissal, the Commission’s Public Relations Manager approached the Labour Court seeking relief. It then ruled that he be reinstated to work and also directed that the disciplinary proceedings be conducted afresh.

Acting on this ruling, Hantši reported to work, but was refused entry by the security acting on the instructions of the IEC management.

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

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

Subsequent to the ruling on Monday, IEC issued the statement saying: “The Labour Appeal Court has ruled that IEC should begin the bearing from the beginning, with a date set, and Mr Hantši be allowed proper legal representation. With this ruling, Mr Hantši will return to work as normal.

“The Commission will quickly set in motion measures to ensure that a new date of hearing is arrived at as swiftly and as quickly as possible, with a view to comply with the order of the court.”