Politics tainting Lesotho’s civil service
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 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. 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.