Ex Econet employee fight for pension, four years on

Company says his negligence cost them M7 million

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Econet Telecom Lesotho’s (ETL) ex-employee, Motaba Mapetja is in desperate attempt to have his pension money paid out, approximately four years since his resigned from the company.

The telecommunications company has not paid his monies despite court decisions and directives in favor of the ex-employee. The company claims it has lost over M7.5 million due to Mapetja’s negligence and is withholding his pension as a result.

They have instituted a civil claim in the commercial division of the High Court against Mapetja and allege that during his term of office, he stole, misappropriated, fraudulently and dishonestly disposed of their stock to the total value of M7.5 million.

The claim against Mapetja was instituted in October 2017, five months after resigning from his position but his monies still have not been released. This is despite the district’s Labour office instruction on September 5, 2017, that the terminal benefits be paid.

Maseru’s District Labour Officer then, Tefelo Maboee, wrote to Econet instructing them to pay Mapetja. “Mr Mapetja alleges that he resigned sometime in May 2017, and thereafter made several attempts to follow up payment of his terminal benefits all in vain.”

In terms of Section 79 (1) of the Labour Code Order of 1992 an employee who has completed more than one year with same employer is entitled to severance payment upon termination of their employment contract. Thus you are requested to pay him his severance payment,” Maboee’s letter said.

ETL was also called on to a meeting should it be in opposition of the directive which they attended. They raised Mapetja’s alleged misappropriation of funds and said he was being investigated.

The department (Labour Office) eventually ruled that “the complainant is entitled to his severance pay and pension,” adding that he resigned having completed numerous years in the employment of the company and had not been found guilty of misconduct while still in their employment.

Mapetja resigned from his position as Containers and Franchise Manager in May 2018, days after he had been served with a notice for a disciplinary hearing and suspended from duty. In his letter for suspension, the company said it had prima facie evidence for the offences: dishonesty and gross negligence but responded by resigning.

His resignation was accepted by the company making him eligible for the terminal benefits. The department also emphasized in its ruling that the employment relationship between Mapetja and ETL terminated when he tendered his resignation and is, therefore, entitled to his severance. However, the never ending court battles are blocking payment of the monies. A total of three court cases remain pending.

Econet approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) in June 2018 citing Mapetja’s alleged misconduct and thereby sought to recover the money lost. They lost the application on July 5 the same year with the DPPR saying it does not have jurisdiction to arbitrate over the claim of recovery of financial loss.

The company then appealed the DDPR’s decision in the Labour Court, while their case was heard in June 2019, the court’s decision remains pending. Judgement was reserved and is yet to be delivered while the company still has not paid the monies.

Mapetja in turn instituted an application before the DDPR asking it to order payment of his monies but ETL argued that Mapetja owes it and requested a set off. The DPP declines jurisdiction yet again and referred the case before the Labour court.

On top of the labour court application, Mapetja finds himself having to respond to the civil claims instituted against him in the commercial court. ETL says he is liable for the loss it incurred while he was their employee. The claim remains pending and parties are yet to have their day in court.

When Mapetja petitioned the Labour Court to order payment of his benefits, ETL said it is not liable for payment of the monies he claim but that he is rather liable for payment of over 7 .5 million to the company.

They also cited pending cases before the Labour court, commercial court. Even if they were liable for the monies claimed, Econet argues that the money would be set off against Mapetja’s liability against the company.

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