Sekoai wins 9-year  battle for reinstatement

Sekoai wins 9-year battle for reinstatement

MASERU-’Mathato Sekoai has finally won a bruising nine-year legal battle for reinstatement to her position as High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar.
In a judgment delivered last Friday, High Court judge Justice Kekeletso Moahloli ruled that Sekoai must be immediately allowed “to resume her duties and functions”.
Sekoai was pushed out of her position in November 2011 after High Court judges ganged up against her.

The judges complained to the then Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla over the manner she dispensed her duties.
In a scathing letter, the judges said Sekoai’s conduct was “most discourteous at times, disrespectful and unhelpful, oftentimes downright arrogant”.
“It is our feeling that the Registrar should be reminded of her true status in relation to the Judges of High Court to whom she owes and must demonstrate respect and courtesy,” their letter read.
The judges complained that Sekoai’s office was not accessible to them and that there was “an acute lack of proper channels of communication and necessary interaction between the Judges on the one hand and the Honourable Chief Justice and the Registrar on the other”.

They said the condition adversely affected their morale and productivity as they generally felt helpless.
Following the letter the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) sent her on leave, at the direction of the Chief Justice.
The JSC told Justice Moahloli that “it is most improbable that the then Chief Justice could have sent Sekoai on leave without giving her any reasons”.
It asserted that Sekoai “knew and understood why she was being required to proceed on leave”.
Strangely, according to Justice Moahloli, “the JSC itself never discloses to the court why Sekoai was suspended and subsequently transferred, even though it is the body that made and implemented these decisions”.

Justice Moahloli found that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigated allegations that Sekoai was “typing transcripts and use(d) the names of Mr Sesioana and one, as if they have transcribed court proceedings and thereafter claim from the Government funds for her own benefit”.
The judge found that the DCEO “found no substance or evidence which may implicate the aforesaid officer to the alleged fraud”.

After the DCEO found that she had not done anything wrong, Sekoai reported for duty in February 2012 but to her shock the judges went on strike or go slow.
Judges had been previously asked to write their individual complaints about Sekoai but they never did.
When the judges went on strike she was directed to go on leave again.

Two days later the JSC resolved to transfer her to the vacant position of Chief Magistrate for the southern region of the country with immediate effect.
Some magistrates threatened to go on strike because they did not want her and in August the JSC wrote her to stop her from resuming her duties because “the prevailing situation in the Judiciary is not conducive and every single attempt is currently being made to try and normalise the situation”.
In January 2013 her lawyers wrote the JSC demanding that it reinstates her to her position.

Also the then Attorney General Advocate Tšokolo Makhethe KC advised that there was unfair aspect of her transfer to the position of Chief Magistrate.
“The complaining Justices were alleging some form of misconduct, yet flatly refused to come to the party to lay bare the misconduct in a disciplinary hearing,” Advocate Makhethe said.
“Cannot one say, therefore, the primary motivation behind her transfer had no basis?”
Also the then acting registrar, Advocate Lesitsi Mokeke, wrote the JSC saying “in terms of the Constitution of Lesotho Section 12 (2) (b) the former Registrar is still presumed innocent until proven or has pleaded guilty”.

Justice Moahloli also found that the JSC had in fact demoted Sekoai although her salary and other benefits were not lowered.
“Unlawful demotion or lowering of status constitutes a repudiation of the contract by the employer entitling the employee to, inter alia, hold the employer to the agreed terms,” the judge ruled.
“In my judgment, Sekoai’s transfer is unlawful because no valid reason has been provided…it can even be said to have been for ulterior motives.”
Over the last nine years, the government has been paying Sekoai her full salary. She also enjoyed full benefits of Registrar even though she was at home.

Itumeleng Khoete

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