This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Trade minister and PS sued for contempt  

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: [email protected] Advertising: [email protected] Telephone: +266 2231 5356

Mohalenyane Phakela

The “fired” chief executive officer of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), Retśelisitsoe Nko, wants a cabinet minister and his principal secretary jailed for “defying” court orders for his reinstatement.

Dr Nko was initially suspended then “fired” from his job after his involvement in a shooting incident in Hillsview, Maseru, on 27 December 2022.  He is currently facing attempted murder charges over the incident but proceedings are yet to commence because of his ill health.

In the meantime, Dr Nko wants Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, Mokhethi Shelile, and his principal secretary, Moshe Mosaase, jailed for contempt of court. He accuses them of defying court orders for his reinstatement and paying his salary and benefits.

Mr Mosaase also doubles as the LTDC’s board chairperson by virtue of being trade and tourism PS.

Dr Nko was “dismissed” on 22 February 2023 after he had failed to appear before a disciplinary committee which had been convened to consider his case just a day before. He had been accused of bringing the LTDC into disrepute over the shooting incident and suspended from the tourism promotion body on 14 February 2023 pending the disciplinary hearing.

Dr Nko had however on the same day won an interim Labour Court interdict staying both the disciplinary hearing and the suspension pending the adjudication of his main application challenging the suspension.  The interdict was supposed to expire or be extended on 20 February 2023, the day set for the hearing of the main application challenging his suspension.  But the hearing could not proceed because electricity supplies to the Labour Court had been cut off over a debt to the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC).   A new date was thus supposed to be set for the hearing.

But the LTDC proceeded with the disciplinary hearing the next day on 21 February 2023 on their understanding that the interim interdict had lapsed. The board then proceeded to fire Dr Nko and issued a letter to that effect dated 22 February 2023.

Dr Nko went back to court and the presiding judge, Teboho Thoso, on 3 May 2023 ordered the LTDC to pay his salaries and benefits from the time of his “suspension ” and “dismissal”  in February 2023. On 5 May 2023, judge Thoso ruled that the LTDC should not have proceeded with the disciplinary hearing because Dr Nko’s case was still pending before the Labour Court. The order effectively nullified the purported termination of his contract with the LTDC. The fact that there was no electricity at the Labour Court and the hearing could not proceed could not have been of Dr Nko’s making, the judge reasoned.  His case was effectively still before court.

On 13 June 2023, the LTDC went to the Labour Appeal Court to challenge judge Thoso’s ruling. Dr Nko’s lawyers are opposing that appeal arguing that the government cannot appeal against an interim order.

Dr Nko’s lawyers, Christopher Lephuting and Monaheng Rasekoai, have in the meantime gone back to the Labour Court seeking an order for Messrs Shelile and Mosaase’s jailing for contempt of court.   The PS and the minister are first and third respondents in Dr Nko’s contempt application.

They stand accused of failing to honour all the Labour Court’s judgments to stay the disciplinary proceedings, lift his suspension and pay his salary and benefits pending the finalisation of the case.

Dr Nko’s court papers partly read: “The basis behind this contempt application is informed by the respondents’ refusal to comply with the order that set aside the dismissal of the applicant (Nko).

“The respondents are denying the applicants the following which flow from his employment status which was reinstated effectively by virtue of the sequence of orders articulated as follows: payment of arrear salary, payment of annual gratuity due in terms of the contract, right to access to his office owing to the setting aside of the suspension and all incidental fringe benefits which were cut off pursuant to the nullified dismissal which remains operational to date.

“The respondents are fully alive to the implications of the order and are openly and brazenly defeating the ends of justice and undermining the authority of the court.”

Dr Nko therefore wants Messrs Shelile and Mosaase committed to jail for disobeying court orders.

He wants “the first and third respondents (Shelile and Mosaase) (to) be directed to personally appear before court and give evidence explaining why there is no compliance with the orders of the court”.

He wants them compelled to pay his salary and benefits or be jailed for disobeying the Labour Court orders.

Presiding judge Thoso has set down the hearing of the contempt application for 27 June 2023.  Messrs Shelile and Mosaase had not filed their responding papers at the time of going to print last night.  The Lesotho Times will update the story online as soon as it gets hold of their responses.

Dr Nko fell foul of his employer after the 27 December 2022 Hillsview shooting incident in which he allegedly shot one Thulo Mothepu on his leg. He also allegedly shot at another Sethole Mothepu but missed him. He is accused of damaging the wall of Moliko Mothepu during the shooting and “disturbing the peace”.  It is alleged that Dr Nko was either shot or shot himself during the incident in an attempt to exonerate himself by claiming he was the victim.

His trial, which will unravel what exactly transpired, is still pending before the Maseru Magistrates’ Court due to his ill health.

He submitted a sick leave from his private doctor to the LTDC on 9 February 2023. However, the LTDC Board resolved to take him to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital for an assessment by a public hospital doctor. A contradictory assessment was issued by the Queen ‘Mamohato hospital doctor deeming Dr Nko fit to appear before the disciplinary hearing. The LTDC board then resolved to proceed with the disciplinary hearing only to subsequently suffer setbacks at the labour court.