In its attempt to dispense with what appeared to be a routine disciplinary case of absenteeism, the Ministry of Health may have entangled itself in an active murder case.
Last month, the hospital fired an employee for having absented himself from work for three weeks when he had spent that entire time in lawful custody at the Maun State Prison.
The hospital itself knew of the employee’s whereabouts because in an April 19, 2013 letter, the chief administration officer states the following: “We have received a report from the Maun Police Station Commander that Mr. Letlhogonolo Motlhoiwa who is appointed as a Registered Nurse at Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital is being investigated for murder. Mr Motlhoiwa was arrested on the 5th April 2013 and he is being remanded in police custody pending further investigations.”┬á
Days earlier, the CID Officer-in-Charge had notified the Superintendent of Letsholathebe Hospital through a savingram that
Motlhoiwa had been detained in connection with a murder case. He later wrote another savingram to confirm such detention.
Seven day after the chief administration officer’s letter, Motlhoiwa received a letter (while still in prison) from the hospital superintendent in which he was asked to explain in writing why disciplinary action could not be taken against him for having absented himself from duty without authority. He wrote back three days later (still from prison) to say that he was in remand custody, awaiting mention on May 3 at the Maun Magistrate Court where he hoped to be granted bail. That didn’t happen and it was only on June 14 that he was granted bail whereupon he immediately reported for duty.
At this point, the disciplinary process was well in train and taking stock of the situation, Motlhoiwa contacted his lawyers who despatched a letter to the hospital.
“Be advised that our client has been in lawful custody (Maun State Prison) pertaining to allegations of his involvement in the murder of Kemo Gothomile. In amplication thereof, we attach hereto a self-explanatory letter from the Officer-in-Charge (CID) Maun for your consideration. It must be clear by now that our client’s absence from duty was neither deliberate nor borne out of neglect of duty but due to circumstances beyond his control.
In the resulting circumstances, the charges preferred against our client are neither tenable nor sustainable in fact and at law. Consequently, with all due respect, holding a disciplinary hearing over such frivolous charges is a clear abuse of process or a thoroughly disingenuous attempt to violate our client’s constitutional rights, not least the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” wrote Wanano Lumbile of Charles Tlagae Attorneys.
Unfazed, the hospital management went ahead with the hearing on July 11 and subsequently referred the matter to the permanent secretary in the ministry of health, Dr. Kolaatamo Malefho. The latter’s letter of January 20, 2014 communicated the bad news.
“Absence from duty without authority is a misconduct as per Section 37 (a) of the Public Service Act No. 30 of 2008. I have decided to dismiss you from the public service with immediate effect,” Malefho letter reads.
Motlhoiwa had hoped he would continue working while awaiting his judicial fate with regard to the murder charge.