MASERU – Top correctional services officers, including Commissioner Thabanag Mothepu, have petitioned the Appeal Court to allow them to challenge nullification of their promotions to previous ranks four years ago, out of time.
The eight Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) officers claim they failed to appeal the High Court order in time because they had been unaware of the damaging judgment.
If the judgment was implemented, the officers’ current jobs could be placed in jeopardy while they would also have to repay government salaries earned since their 2015 promotions.
Court rules demand an appeal be noted within six weeks of a judgment being handed down.
The officers’ arguments are contained in court papers filed in the Appeal Court where they have challenged a High Court judgment that nullified their promotions in 2017.
The officers have appealed on the grounds that Justice ’Masehlophe Hlajoane who heard the matter misdirected herself when she found the Lesotho Correctional Services Staff Association (LCSSA) had the legal right to challenge the promotions, and by insisting LCS promotions guidelines should have been observed.
Also, Mothepu and co-appellants are arguing that Justice Hlajoane should not have allowed the LCSSA application to succeed on the basis of papers before her.
They have alleged in their papers that they have prospects of success if the apex court hears them.
The late Justice Hlajoane nullified the promotions effected in 2015 by former Commissioner of LCS, ’Matefo Makhalemele after they were challenged by the Lesotho Correctional Services Staff Association (LCSSA).
The promoted officers are: K. Moeno who was appointed senior assistant commissioner, M. Raphuthing appointed acting assistant commissioner, one Selahla appointed senior Superintendent, Ntsasa as Superintendent, Rammasa as assistant Superintendent, and Matingoe Phamotse who was promoted to acting deputy commissioner.
Mothepu was made assistant commissioner and was subsequently promoted to commissioner in July 2018.
The court ordered that the Accountant General deduct payments made to the promoted officers to honour nullified promotions.
Their argument is that the High Court judgment is moot because they have all now changed ranks and therefore the judgment cannot be implemented.
It is also their case that no purpose will be served by determining whether the High Court was right or wrong when it granted the application by the LCSSA.
In his affidavit, Mothepu said despite relentless efforts to get a copy of the judgment from the office of the Attorney General, he was unable to do so.
He only got a copy when his office was served with the court order on August 27, 2018.
Mothepu further states that after being served he approached the office of the Attorney General for advice but was given an appointment for August 29, 2018, almost a year later.
Mothepu argued that the judgment reached his office and the Attorney General late because the registry at the AG office never forwarded it to anybody, including Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane who had argued the matter.
He has alleged in the papers that the Attorney General advised them to lodge an appeal but have also been advised that the appeal is out of time and that it can only be entertained upon condonation by the Court.
“I wish to indicate that the delay in noting the present appeal was not willful and inordinate, I aver that in the circumstances, the appeal is not out of time due to any default on our part and/or the part of my legal representatives.
“I aver that in all the circumstances of this case and the explanation given above, it will be in the interest of justice to grant the application for condonation as prayed and allow the parties to argue the appeal…
“Be that as it may be, I was advised that the respondent also became aware of the judgment of the Court a quo sometime in the middle of August hence the order that was served upon my office on the 27th August 2018,” he said.
Mothepu maintains that the staff association lacked the locus standi (legal right) to challenge his promotion and that of the officers promoted along with him.