3 November 2017

Lesotho: Soldiers Challenge Dismissal Over Pregnancies

HIGH Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi, is today expected to preside a case in which three female members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are challenging their dismissal from the army after they fell pregnant.

Privates, Lieketso Mokhele, 'Masaule Letima and 'Masine Ntsoha filed an application before the High Court in December 2016, petitioning the court to direct the LDF commander to reinstate them to the army.

On 22 March 2016, former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, dismissed the trio from the force after they fell pregnant.

They were dismissed in line with the LDF Standing Order No. 2 of 2014 which stipulates that the female soldiers should not fall pregnant within five years of their time in the defence force.

The trio, in their court papers, asked the court to review, correct and set aside the army commander's decision to discharge them from the LDF on the grounds that the decision was "irregular and unlawful".

Another order sought is "that applicants be reinstated back to their positions and ranks in the LDF without any loss of benefits arising therefrom."

Alternatively they want to be compensated to the tune of M500 000 each, if they are not reinstated.

Part of the affidavit made by Private Mokhele states: "I joined the Lesotho Defence Force in October 2013 and at that time I started my six months recruitment training into the army".

"At the time when I joined the army I was already a married woman with one child. On the 3 March 2014 General Standing Order No. 2 of 2014 was issued which expressly communicated a prohibition to the effect that female soldiers in the rank of Private are not allowed to bear children.

"The above-mentioned standing order was communicated when I was barely twenty days away from completing my six month training as a cadet in the army."

She says on the 28 March, 2014 during the pass out ceremony Lt-Gen Kamoli reiterated that the female soldiers of her rank, who had not completed five years of service in the army, should not fall pregnant.

She said no explanation was given for that order.

She stated that she was deployed to the southern part of the country in May 2014, adding she only became aware that she was pregnant when she went for medical examination, which revealed that she was seven months pregnant.

"I immediately informed my superiors about my condition and also expressed my shock and dismay as I had been using contraceptives without any qualms until then," she said.

She stated that a few days later she was issued with 'a show cause notice' for having disobeyed the Standing Order No.2 of 2014 "which expressly prohibited pregnancy of female soldiers."

She added: "I must be quick to mention that instead of conducting a disciplinary enquiry against me, the LDF command issued me with a letter upon which I was invited to show cause why I may not be discharged from the army."

Private Mokhele argues despite her reply to the letter the former army commander dismissed her from the LDF.

The other two female soldiers also attached their supporting affidavits challenging the legality of their dismissal.

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