Co-op Lesotho workers seek freedom
EMBATTLED Cooperative Lesotho Limited (Co-op Lesotho) employees of have filed an urgent application before the High Court, challenging their arrest and detention by the police last Friday.
’Mamaeketsa Molefi, Tieho Mohapi, Thabo Selapane, Lebohang Masupha, ’Mapalesa Pasane, Katiso Mohloai-seola and ’Malebohang Rapase were arrested by the Pitso Ground police after the Maseru Magistrate’s Court issued warrants of their arrest on 12 August and 9 September 2016.
The arrest warrants came after the workers allegedly defied a Magistrate’s Court order dated 25 July 2016, dismissing them from the Co-op Lesotho premises at Bon- homme House, Maseru.
But in an urgent application the workers filed through their lawyer, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, on Monday, they argue they are “detrimentally being prejudiced” by the continuous violation of the provisions of a court order issued on 30 June 2016 and extended to 20 September 2016.”
Advocate Lephuthing submits: “. . .there is a distortion of justice in that notwithstanding the interim order of the High Court prohibiting Thabo Shale (General Manager) of Co-op Lesotho from interfering with the lawful occupation of the applicants in the leased property at Bonhomme House dated 30 June 2016, the Maseru Magistrate Court issued an order on 25 July 2016 between the same parties purporting to eject the applicant on the same premises.”
Mr Shale, Co-op Lesotho, Small Business Development Cooperative and Marketing Minister Thabiso Litšiba, the ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) Motseki Mofammere, Commissioner for Cooperatives Development ’Maphamoli Lekoetje, Attorney-general Tšokolo Makhethe, Commissioner of Police Molahlehi Letsoepa and Officer Commanding Pitso Ground Police Station are cited as first to eighth respondents respectively in the matter.
Advocate Lephuthing notes the magistrate’s view was that it was incumbent upon any judicial officer and/or court to finalise the case before her.
As a result of magistrate’s finding, Advocate Lephuthing submits his clients have been arrested following “what the magistrates of Maseru consider to be a contempt of their order of 25 July 2016”.
“The magistrate’s court maintains its view that applicants cannot rely on the order of High Court because High Court does not have jurisdiction to regulate Magistrate’s Court procedures in the administration of justice in this country,” he argues.
“This flawed reasoning of counsel for the first respondent (Farook Patel - a businessman operating at Bonhomme House) as concurred in by the honourable magistrates suffers first applicant serious loss of business because his business has been closed despite him being armed with the High Court’s order such that its property must be ascertained urgently, particularly in view of lacking jurisdiction of the Magistrate’s Court to overturn and negate the orders of the High Court in this contemptuous coordinated manner.
“The inference, in my view, is therefore inescapable that the magistrates of Maseru court are continuing to undermine the order of the High Court and give positive and practical effect of their contemptuous orders by arresting employees of Cooperative Lesotho under very dubious circumstances unjustifiable in law.”
The disgruntled workers want the High Court to issue an order calling upon the respondents to show cause why they should “not be put to goal for contempt of this honourable court’s order of 30 June 2016.”
They also want the court to issue an order declaring that “the assertive findings of Magistrate Qoo that interim order of High Court is enforceable before Maseru Magistrate’s Court violated the judicial authority of the High Court.”
Again, they want an order to declare warrants of apprehension dated 12 August 2016 and 9 September 2016 “targeted at arrests of applicants as unlawful and legally incompetent”.
Efforts to establish when the matter would be heard in court proved fruitless until the time of going to print yesterday.