MASERU – Government has been accused of ignoring court orders bucking its pre-election promise to uphold the rule of law, Public Eye can report.
A miffed former Lesotho Ambassador to the United States (US) and the United Nations (UN), Advocate Kelebone Maope, this week said there was nothing to celebrate after the Appeal Court endorsed a high court order that he should be paid outstanding salary arrears.
This was because government had not honoured two previous court orders granted in his favour.
In August 2018, High Court Judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa ordered government to pay Maope his terminal benefits and buy out the remaining 14 months of his contract within 60 days of the order being granted.
He is still waiting to be paid.
Similarly, Dr John Naazi Oliphant, who was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and whose application was consolidated with that of Maope, is still awaiting payment.
Judge Moiloa had also ordered government to pay Maope’s costs for the lawsuit after finding government in contempt for defying a court order stopping his recall.
Instead, government appealed saying the judge had erred in fixing a timeframe for Maope to be paid.
In its grounds of appeal, government said Justice Moiloa misdirected himself when he concluded that it was in contempt.
Government argued the judge had failed to draw a line between the peculiar nature of a contract of employment and a contract of deployment in the context of the case before him.
The Appeal Court agreed with the government and said the High Court was wrong in fixing a timeframe for payment but ordered that he should be paid terminal benefits due to him as well as salary arrears.
Advocate Maope told Public Eye in an interview on Tuesday that he has not been paid despite the high court order.
He also said government had failed to implement a March 26 interim order by Justice Moiloa staying the government’s decision to recall him from his position until the case was finalised.
Instead, Maope said the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Halebone Setsabi, went to the Embassy in the US and reportedly told officers there that “government does not work with court orders”.
Maope is convinced the Apex Court decision will not change his circumstances because “there is no rule of law in Lesotho. I will not get paid like what has happened in the past despite the court order”.
“I don’t believe that I will ever get paid with this government. I am just happy that the Court agreed that my removal was unlawful.”
The former ambassador said his lawyer had written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations sometime in 2018 stating that despite government appealing the High Court decision, the orders still needed to be enforced.
Government replied saying it had no money and was not aware that it had to comply with the High Court order.
Sets`abi this week said he could not say why Maope had not been paid and referred Public Eye to the ministry’s Chief Accounting Officer, ’Maphunye Monare.
He denied saying government did not operate with court orders though he admitted informing embassy staff in the US that issues surrounding Maope’s position were in the courts.
“I even told them that Advocate Maope is still in office as ambassador but had been summoned to the Head Office to discuss issues surrounding his suspension.”
For her part, Monare refused to discuss the Maope saga, saying: “What I know for a fact is that I am in the process of paying Advocate Maope.”
Asked if she was aware of the court orders as well as the now lapsed 60-days High Court timeframe to pay Maope, Monare exploded.
“Number one, where did you get my number? Two, I do not speak to media. Has Advocate Maope given you permission to talk about his issues? I will have to wait for the paper so I can reply accordingly.”
In its judgment, the Appeal Court said government must pay Maope his benefits as outlined in his letter of recall.
“At the hearing of this appeal, the court asked counsel for the appellants why the appellants were not paying the respondents their dues as per the letter of recall, the answer was not forthcoming.
“In my opinion, the appellants must pay the respondents their dues in terms of their letters for recall,” reads part of the judgment.
The judgment further states that “there is no reason why the appellants should not be ordered to pay the respondents costs in the High Court on a party to party scale, which were occasioned by their failure to pay the respondents as undertaken by them in their letters of recall”.
President of the Appeal Court, Dr Kananelo Mosito, sitting with Justice Moses Chinhengo and Justice November Mtshiya dismissed government’s stance that the High Court had “granted remedies for breach of contract when the case placed before him was a review application which falls under the province of Public Law”.
The judges said the High Court had only directed government to pay in accordance with its undertaking in the letter of recall.
“The Court a quo did not order damages for breach of contract, this was the position of the appellants that they offer respondents payment of benefit including their salaries for the remaining terms of their contract.”