Co-op Le­sotho work­ers seek free­dom

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

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.

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