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Gantsi cleaner sweeps govt aside in court

Almost a year after she was fired, a Gantsi cleaner in the District Commissioner’s (D.C) office has won her job back, with Maun High Court ruling she be re-instated immediately.

As well as being handed her mop back, Tlhalefang Kolobetso is also set for a bumper pay-day, as court ordered she be fully compensated for all the months she missed work following her dismissal on 3 June 2021.

She will not have to put a single Thebe towards the trial either, with Justice Bugalo Maripe instructing government to pay all the legal costs relating to the court case.

Kolobetso’s woes at work started five days after the 2019 general elections, when she reportedly stumbled upon five transparent containers filled with used ballot boxes tucked away in the D.C’s office toilet.

Later in the day, the D.C, Mooketsi Lesetedi is said to have called her and asked if she had seen the ballot boxes, to which Kolobetso confirmed she had.

“She was subsequently instructed not to enter the toilet because the ballot boxes was confidential information and she was admonished not to tell anyone about it, otherwise she would be dismissed from her job,” reads part of Maripe’s judgment.

The warning is said to have shocked Kolobetso, and she was unable to resist sharing her news with a colleague, Segomotso Mhaladi.

The revelation promptly become public and was followed by a protest against Gantsi North parliamentary results by one of the contenders, Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Noah Salakae.

A charge of misconduct was eventually laid against Kolobetso on 1 June 2020. On the 11th, she requested further particulars of the charge, but, although she was never supplied with such, was nonetheless summoned to a disciplinary hearing on the 18th.

On 28th July a recommendation for her dismissal was made. However, it was not until close to a year later that she received her marching orders.

Opposing her dismissal in court, Kolobetso argued she could not be fired for disclosing information not authorised by government because at the time, the information was not government material, as it was in the custody of the D.C in his capacity as a Returning Officer appointed in terms of the Electoral Act and not as a public servant.

She further argued exposing suspected corruption does not constitute a breach of confidentiality and citizens have a civic duty to disclose any such concerns, either to a supervisor or independent contractor.

“No prior permission is required!” insisted the cleaner.

In the judgment, Justice Maripe found that the employer took far too long to deal with the matter and failed to cite the sections which they said Kolobetso had offended.

“Offence of serious misconduct under PSA is created as section 27 (1). Section 27 (3)(i) is only an instance or example of misconduct. It is not a stand alone provision. One cannot be accused of violating an example. In my view it is improper to take disciplinary action against an employee for misconduct without reference to section 27(1).”

Answering against Kolobetso’s lawsuit was Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration and the Attorney General. They were all swept away by the cleaner!