Pol­i­tics taint­ing Le­sotho’s civil ser­vice

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IN re­sponse to “Set­back for re­called diplo­mats” ( Le­sotho Times, Oc­to­ber 22, 2015), a diplo­mat serves the coun­try whether at the head­quar­ters in Maseru or within Le­sotho’s mis­sions abroad. Diplo­mats en­gaged on con­tract may chal­lenge the pre­ma­ture ter­mi­na­tion of their em­ploy­ment, but never their as­signed duty sta­tion as is the na­ture of diplo­matic prac­tice world­wide.

Trans­fer or re­call from a mis­sion to head­quar­ters does not mean ejec­tion from the for­eign ser­vice, but a mere change in duty sta­tion. Em­ploy­ment sta­tus is an­other mat­ter. De­ploy­ment and em­ploy­ment can’t both be chal­lenged in the courts thanks to Le­sotho’s For­eign Ser­vice Reg­u­la­tions which form part and par­cel of the em­ploy­ment con­tract.

This in­ci­dent high­lights the fact that the politi­ci­sa­tion of Le­sotho’s pub­lic ser­vice is a hugely sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem. But, in the same to­ken, it is a sad day that diplo­mats find it ap­pro­pri­ate to chal­lenge the de­ci­sions of their de­ploy­ments in the courts, go­ing against the deco­rum that is de­manded from a for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer any­where in the world.

It be­comes plain to see that pol­i­tics des­per­ately needs to va­cate the pub­lic ser­vice which has de­te­ri­o­rated to a point where; just like the mil­i­tary, re­quires some heavy rein­vest­ment and pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion. Many will re­call the Ba­sotho Congress Party gov­ern­ment com­ing into power in 1993, nam­ing the seem­ingly po­lit­i­cal in­cli­na­tions of the pub­lic ser­vice at the time as a prob­lem which they were de­ter­mined to han­dle with sen­si­tiv­ity, but it has been the very same an­i­mal in all of its sub­se­quent guises that has turned a seem­ing prob­lem into an epic dis­as­ter.

The en­gage­ment of prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries on a con­trac­tual ba­sis was the ic­ing on the cake and the re­sult of 22 years since the re­turn of demo­cratic rule is a civil ser­vice that is well trained to serve the ego­tis­ti­cal in­ter­ests of the lead­er­ship rather than to per­form in hum­ble and pa­tri­otic ser­vice to the na­tion.

The dis­po­si­tion of the cur­rent coali­tion gov­ern­ment is very dis­turb­ing, hold­ing very lit­tle prom­ise for any im­prove­ment to this sit­u­a­tion, be­cause right now all it seems to be do­ing is to work hard to once again swing the civil ser­vice pen­du­lum to their side, for their own in­ter­ests.

It is my hum­ble opin­ion that gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees (PSS, am­bas­sadors etc) en­gaged un­der con­tract should have been al­lowed to serve their con­tracts through, paving the way for bet­ter tol­er­ance, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and unity in ser­vice of the na­tion.

With our po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity, gov­ern­ment will change hands, but our pub­lic ser­vice should be a con­stant, pro­fes­sional es­tab­lish­ment Ba­sotho can rely on and be proud of.

Leny­oere.

@ Leny­oere I don’t agree with you on this one. Po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees are just that – they are ap­pointed by the gov­ern­ment of the day and can be re­moved by the gov­ern­ment of the day. The es­teemed am­bas­sadors should just take a chill pill and ac­cept that the seven-party coali­tion does not like them and have ev­ery right to ap­point their own peo­ple in those po­si­tions.

As in­con­ve­nient to the sta­bil­ity of fam­i­lies as this whole re­call­ing is­sue is, the am­bas- sadors are smart enough, I’d like to be­lieve, to know that their ap­point­ments are “risky” po­lit­i­cal ones, thus prone to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

Hard luck guys.

Sampo.

@Sampo. You’re cer­tainly cor­rect that diplo­matic ap­point­ments are al­ways risky, which is why it’s a reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ment in most coun­tries for diplo­mats to ten­der their res­ig­na­tions at the change of gov­ern­ment. It is then up to the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment to de­cide if they ac­cept the res­ig­na­tions or not.

As much as I am a sup­porter of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment and can sym­pa­thize with the rea­sons for the re­call, the is­sue of em­ploy­ment is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter that is set­ting a very bad prece­dent that will only re­peat it­self ad per­petuum while also work­ing very well at tak­ing the coun­try nowhere.

Fir­ing peo­ple hired by a pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment is not re­dress­ing any is­sue, but rather ex­ac­er­bat­ing a glar­ing prob­lem of nepo­tism and crony­ism. My con­cern here is that of sus­tain­abil­ity and the need to align our lead­er­ship and our lim­ited resources to serve our col­lec­tive as­pi­ra­tions as a peo­ple.

In al­most 50 years of in­de­pen­dence, there is no rea­son why at the very least we don’t have a ma­ture civil ser­vice. Po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ments in a ma­ture civil ser­vice should only rest within the of­fices of the prime min­is­ter, min­is­ters (i.e their sup­port­ing staff), dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors and heads of some diplo­matic mis­sions.

There are tech­ni­cal mis­sions, such as the United Na­tions, the Euro­pean Union, the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the African Union which should be re­served for ca­reer diplo­mats who are con­ver­sant with mul­ti­lat­eral pol­i­tics.

Be­sides th­ese, all other civil ser­vice po­si­tions from PSS down­wards should be re­served for qual­i­fied per­son­nel who are pro­moted on merit in a sys­tem that is pro­tected and un­tainted by pol­i­tics.

The hir­ing of PSS should be made more trans­par­ent through va­cancy an­nounce­ments in pa­pers where those who qual­ify; mi­nus other nom­i­nated can­di­dates, should be given the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply.

Short­listed can­di­dates should also un­dergo an in­ter­view and vet­ting process with the rel­e­vant Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee who can give their stamp of ap­proval or not. Stu­dents in South Africa are busy fight­ing for a level play­ing field, while here we are cre­at­ing rifts and hills, cliffs and gul­lies that are only suc­ceed­ing to keep Le­sotho in the dol­drums of poverty while our neigh­bours con­tinue to de­velop around us.

A strong and pro­fes­sional civil ser­vice as well as a strong and pro­fes­sional army are the ubiq­ui­tous in­gre­di­ents nec­es­sary for a sta­ble coun­try that is able to suc­cess­fully and sus­tain­ably pur­sue its de­vel­op­ment as­pi­ra­tions.

The peo­ple who are be­ing re­called are not my own when it comes to pol­i­tics. I don’t mind them be­ing re­called, but in­stead of ter­mi­nat­ing their con­tracts, they can serve the re­main­der of their em­ploy­ment at head­quar­ters or sim­ply re­sign.

I hate to say this, but it’s ac­tu­ally bet­ter to frus­trate some­one in their job rather than fire them for rea­sons that don’t hold wa­ter.

Leny­oere.

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