22 litigants in limbo

22 litigants in limbo

MASERU – A court case that could confirm promotion or demote the current commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) is among the 22 that has been affected by the Court of Appeal’s closure.
This after Registrar Pontšo Phafoli said the court did not have funds to cater for several foreign judges hired to hear cases.

The case is challenging the late Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane’s ruling that LCS Commissioner Thabang Mothepu and eight other senior officials were improperly promoted.
This is the case that successfully challenged the promotions communicated through the LCS Internal Circular Notice No. 15 and 16 of 2015 – at least two years before Mothepu was appointed commander.

This means that when he was appointed commissioner the High Court had earlier nullified his promotion to the rank of Assistant Commissioner, from which he was later re-promoted to the commissioner.
The Lesotho Correctional Service Staff Association had successfully petitioned Justice Hlajoane to interdict Mothepu and eight other senior officers from performing the duties of the offices they had been promoted to.

The association had also won an order that the LCS should refrain from making any new and or further adjustments to the salaries of the officers.
The Accountant General had been ordered to start recovering any additional amounts the officer earned after their promotions. This was to be done by making deductions from their salaries.

Justice Hlajoane’s judgment, delivered on June 14 last year, nullified the promotions of the then Deputy Commissioner Matingoe Phamotse, Senior Assistant Commissioner K Moeno, Acting Assistant Commissioner M Raphuthing, Assistant Commissioner T Mothepu, Senior Superintendent Selahla, Superintendent Ntšasa, Assistant Superintendent Bereng and Assistant Superintendent Rammasa.

Justice Hlajoane found that their promotions “were unlawful, null and void and of no legal force”.
She said their promotions were of no legal force because the then commissioner, ’Matefo Makhalemele, “acted ultra vires the powers she possessed, Section 2 of the Prisons (Amendment) Order 1970”.
Justice Hlajoane also found that the commissioner had not relied on the promotion guidelines in effecting promotions.

So, the Court of Appeal would also determine if the promotions guidelines have force of law had its sitting not been suspended.
The Court of Appeal also would determine if the staff association had locus standi to have brought this application in light of the fact that it is a friendly association established in terms of Societies Act instead of being inherent in the laws governing LCS.

Other litigants who are obviously prejudiced by the suspension of the Court of Appeal are the Letsie family whose dispute over inheritance from 2012 or before that.
The family’s feud over inheritance almost resulted in bloodshed, at least according Joseph Theko Letsie who told the court in an affidavit that his relatives were “disturbing my peaceful enjoyment of such property with intentions to provoke bloodshed”.

While the courts were dillydallying when they were supposed to dispense with the family’s urgent application, and others committing contempt of court, Theko Letsie says the relatives have caused untold damage to the property in dispute.
“They continue insulting (and) abusing my wife and family, marauding up and down my estate, bringing odd visitors at night to drink and making and causing all kinds of untold disturbances and nuisance to my family and minor children,” Theko Letsie told the court in papers.

He said they were being tossed from one court to another and justice took long to be delivered.
In 2016 the High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase made a ruling that did not identify the heir to the disputed property, which led to Theko Letsie applying to the Court of Appeal.
The sitting of the apex court has been suspended and anything can happen between the warring family members in the meantime.

Staff Reporter

 

 

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