LDF boss faces jail

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela faces jail time for failing to comply with a 2020 High Court judgment ordering him to allow a junior officer return to work.

The LDF command fired one Mokitimi Senekane in December 2007, prompting him to challenge the dismissal in court.

He was accused of abomination and making derogatory statements about LDF and its officers in an interview he had with Public Eye on November 23, 2007.

Lieutenant General Thuso Motanyane, who was the commander at the time, asked Senekane to show cause why he could not be discharged from the force.

Lt. Gen subsequently fired him.

His case dragged for a staggering 12 years and was only heard in 2020. The delay in determining his complaint saw Senekane spend 14 years out of the service, including the six months’ period after the High Court ruled on his favour.

High Court Judge Moroke Mokhesi on October 15, 2020 declared Senekane’s dismissal invalid because of the commander’s failure to comply with the law and some ulterior motives he said were used to get rid of Senekane.

“Even though the commander is endowed with the discretion to discharge, the manner in which that was exercised, sullied or colored the entire decision. The invocation of discretion to discharge under section 31 (c) was colored by ulterior motives and was used for dishonest purposes,” read the judgement in part.

The court then declared Senekane’s discharge invalid and of no force and effect. LDF was also ordered to pay the complainant’s costs for the application.

However, the defence force has still not complied with the judgment since Senekane is still out in the cold and has not been reinstated.

Attempts by his lawyers to have the institution comply with the judgment were in vain as LDF ignored a letter asking it to comply with the judgment. Nthontho Attorneys on November 5 2020 asked the LDF commander to provide a way forward following Judge Mokhesi’s decision but the letter was not responded to either.

“…On the 15 October 2020 before His Lordship Justice J. Mokhesi, a judgment was delivered and the following order was made: the discharge of the plaintiff by the commander from LDF is declared unlawful/invalid and of no force and effect and is accordingly set aside, we humbly request your good office to guide us on the way forward as per the judgement …” read the letter in part.

Instead, LDF appealed the matter on at least four grounds.

They argue that the High Court erred and misdirected itself in holding that the power of the commander to invoke section 31 of LDF Act of 1996 in order to discharge is applicable after conviction is made by military courts.

LDF also argued that the judge misdirected himself in holding that the commander when exercising his power to discharge in terms of section 3 of the LDF Act of 1996 is bound to invoke Defence Force (Regulations) of 1998.

Further they said “the learned judge erred and misdirected himself in failing to appreciate that the conviction and sentence of plaintiff in 2004 serves as previous convictions which are aggravating in nature in the consideration of discharge of plaintiff based on the ill-discipline reflected in the newspaper interview of 2007,”

However, LDF did not pursue their appeal in the ongoing session of the Appeal Court despite being enrolled for hearing. This prompted Senekane to institute contempt of court proceedings against the commander.

He says the commander should be held in contempt of court for his willful defiance of Judge Mokhesi’s October 15 order.

“He shall not be sent to prison personally to serve two (2) months in prison for his willful defiance and contempt of the Court order made by his Lordship Mokhesi J of 15th October 2020 served upon the former on 5th November 2020 as per the signature and stamp of the Commander’s office appearing on the Court Order.”

In his contempt application, Senekane narrates events subsequent to the granting of the order. He says he never heard from LDF since the issuance of the order and that when his lawyers followed up, their letter was not replied to.

LDF’s appeal, he says, was only a delaying tactic as they never pursued the matter despite being enrolled for hearing. “I aver that on the 17th day of November 2020, the Respondents filed the Notice of appeal together with their grounds of appeal under C OF A (CIV) NO: 41/2020.

“I aver that the matter was enrolled but was never pursued by the Respondents after filing appeal. This was just a tactic to delay compliance with the court order of this Honorable court. The matter was enrolled and set down for the 21st April 2021 but it was removed from the roll for want of prosecution by the Appellants.”

Nothing ever came from the office of the commander and LDF continued to withhold his salary.

“I aver further that in total disregard of the order of 15th October 2020, 1st Respondent has to date unreasonably and without any explanation withheld all my lost salaries, remuneration and entitlements accruing from 2008 – November 2020 while I was unlawfully discharged.”

For that, he wants the commander to be found in contempt and jailed for two months.

 

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