20 employees win round one in Multi million Pula land scandal
Twenty suspended Kweneng Land Board employees accused of corruption in an unfolding multi million Pula land scandal have won round one against their employer in court.
The disgraced employees had dragged Government to Labour Court this week challenging their strict suspension conditions.
At the centre of the scandal is a ‘compensation-in-kind’ scheme that was introduced by the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services in 2019.
The initiative, which applied only to the Kweneng Land Board, permitted landowners to surrender one hectare of their ploughing fields in exchange for six residential plots.
The idea was for the ordinary Motswana to benefit while the land board gained more land to service for future allocation.
However, according to a source close to the investigation, Land Board employees instead through insider trading tactics used the information at their disposal to purchase the sought after land for themselves at cheaper rates.
The employees would then allegedly allocate themselves plots in prime areas such as Ledumadumane and Mogoditshane Block 9 in exchange for their newly acquired ploughing fields.
An affidavit deposed by the suspended employees cites that, “On March, 20, 2020, the first respondent (ministry) placed all of us on suspension, which suspension we do not challenge.
However, as it is apparent from the suspension letter, the 1st respondent added a new term on our employment condition by stating that we should not travel outside a radius of 150 KM from our respective duty station.”
The suspended employees further argued in court that they were not consulted about the new condition, which was instituted without their consent.
“Consequently this term violates our respective contract employment,” they stated.
The 20 employees further highlighted that the Ministry had not given reasons why it was necessary to take away their freedom of movement.
“We find the restriction unreasonable and in essence confining. We are in essence imprisoned yet to adverse decision government has been taken against us. The 1st respondent (Ministry) is being heavy handed for no apparent reason or justification.”
“Now that the lockdown is over we are free to move about (except between zones) where a permit would be required. We are now feeling the impact of the restriction because we are unable to visit our families who reside in places that are more than 150 KM away from our respective duty station.”
Government, in an interesting turn of events decided not to oppose the request by the suspended employees.
The Labour Court Judge then ruled in favour of the suspended employees.
“The application succeeds unopposed to the effect that the suspension letters issued to all applicants dated March 20th shall be amended at paragraph 3 by expunging the expression “…. Be within a radius of 150 KM from your duty station and, the remainder of the letter shall remain as is,” the judge ruled.