Court interpreters threaten to sue

Court interpreters threaten to sue

MASERU-HIGH Court principal interpreters have threatened to lodge a contempt of court case after the government ignored a judgment to improve their status.

The interpreters’ lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, wrote to the Ministry of Law last week demanding it complies with the judgment “or we shall file contempt proceedings upon opening of the second session of the High Court in two weeks’ time”.

“We are aware that you are aware of this judgment,” the letter reads.
“The judgment was served upon your legal representatives upon delivery of judgment in the High Court,” it reads.
“Notwithstanding your awareness, you commit an ongoing contempt of court by failing to comply.”

High Court judge Justice Moroke Mokhesi delivered judgment in March in which he declared that the proper position of High Court interpreters was that of principal interpreters.

The judge also declared that their proper salary scale should be paid at Grade 1, which is currently between M18 000 and M20 000 per month.
He also said alternatively they should not be paid a salary below Grade G, which is M15 000 to M17 000, or in the further alternative not below Grade F, which is M12 000 to M13 000.

They are now paid at Grade E, which is M10 000.
The judge found that the High Court had been continuously underpaying them from 2005 until the finalisation of the case.
The court ordered the ministry to pay them what they had been underpaid from January 2013.

The ministry was also ordered to fill in the position of the chief interpreter that remains vacant.
The ministry has not fulfilled any of these things.
Justice Mokhesi said six out of the nine interpreters had tertiary education “but even those who do not possess any academic degrees, have amassed considerable experience as interpreters”.
He found that those who had university degrees had their salaries upgraded.

The interpreters were complaining that their counterparts at Parliament were being paid better.
They were also being discriminated against in relation to assistant interpreters who are paid at Grade F.

A principal interpreter, Molefi Thatho, told thepost that they tried informing the ministry that it was breaking the law by ignoring the judgment but all was in vain.

Thatho said they as principal interpreters were concerned that the government departments were not complying with the decisions made by the courts.
He said it has been more than four months since the court ordered the ministry to pay them but there has never been any action taken to comply with the judgment.

He said when they enquired the Registrar of the High Court told them that the ministry was going to appeal “but even today there has not been any registered case in the Court of Appeal and the notice of appeal has not been served”.

“The Registrar even confirmed that no one appeals by word of mouth but the appeal has to be noted,” Thatho said.
He said they have been waiting for the notice of appeal from the date of judgment “but up to date there has never been anything from them”.

“This says they had to comply with the decisions of the court as they never appealed within the period they had been given to do so,” he said.
The principal secretary, Colonel Tanki Mothae, was not available for comment at the time of going to print last night.

Itumeleng Khoete

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