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By Nat Molomo
MASERU — A branch manager at FNB Bank is facing a M15 million lawsuit over harassment which has been linked to an alleged sexual assault against the complainant’s girlfriend employed at the same bank.
Retsélisitsoe Tsósane, the manager at FNB’s branch at the Star Lion building in the capital, could find himself forking out the whopping amount if the court rules in favour of Petlane Petlane.
FNB Bank, the police commissioner and attorney-general are cited alongside Tsósane as the respondents.
Petlane, a local businessman who operates eight accounts with FNB, alleges that he was harassed after Tsósane made a “false” report to the police that he was disrupting banking operations at the branch.
Petlane alleged in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week that he believed Tsósane’s action was designed to humiliate him.
He said a few months before the incident Tsósane had been accused of sexually harassing his fiancée who works at the bank.
In his court papers, Petlane said he was allegedly harassed on August 12 while he was conducting his business at the branch headed by Tsósane.
Petlane claimed Tsósane rushed to the police to make a “malicious” and “false” report that he was dangerous and “was obstructing and/or had caused a halt to banking services”.
Petlane said two police officers responded to Tsósane’s report and came to the bank where they allegedly manhandled him.
“The plaintiff was thereby degraded, humiliated and ignominiously insulted and had his dignity impaired,” said the court papers.
Petlane said the police’s conduct could be attributed to “false, intentional, malicious, reckless” report which Tsósane’s had made at Maseru Central Charge Office.
He said FNB Bank was liable because the incident happened at its premises and the bank’s employee was involved.
The police commissioner, according to the court papers, was named because of the two officers involved.
The attorney-general is representing the government.
Letters of demand have been served on the four parties.
But it is the allegations that Petlane has made against Tsósane that are likely to take the centre stage when the case starts.
Petlane told the Lesotho Times this week that there was a long list of events that could have led Tsósane to make the report to the police on August 12.
The Lithabaneng-based businessman claimed Tsósane had a score to settle with him.
Petlane said some months before the incident his girlfriend who works at the same FNB branch had laid sexual harassment charges against Tsósane.
“This guy has been after my woman for a long time,” Petlane alleged.
“He sexually harassed her.
“My woman refused to have sex with him.
“He wanted to sleep with her but she refused.
“So when I went to the bank he thought I had come to fight him and he called the police.
“He thought maybe I was planning revenge.”
Petlane refused to reveal his girlfriend’s name but the Lesotho Times understands that she works in the bank’s back office.
Her name is known to this paper but has been withheld to protect her privacy.
Investigations by this paper have confirmed that Petlane’s girlfriend indeed laid a sexual assault complaint against Tsósane.
Tsósane was hauled before a disciplinary hearing but was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
This paper has the judgment delivered by one M Leuta of Du Preez Liebetrau & Co after the disciplinary hearing.
In her complaint, the woman had alleged that Tsósane’s had made “immoral sexual advances” towards her.
She alleged the branch manager had made inappropriate inquiries about her sex life and sexual relations.
She said Tsósane had at one time asked her who her lover was but she told him that there was none.
She said he went out and investigated and came back to tell her that he had found out that her partner was Petlane.
She also alleged that Tsósane’s had shown her pornographic movies on his computer.
“She testified further that whenever she went to his office to require his signature, he would show her pornographic movies on his laptop,” Leuta’s judgment said.
“She went further to say that she had a black skirt and that respondent (Tsósane) would whistle every time that she wore it.”
She also complained that when she refused his sexual advances Tsósane started targeting her and picking on her mistakes.
She added she believed that the reason she was not properly appraised and given a bonus was because she had spurned Tsósane’s advances.
Tsósane vehemently denied the allegations and brought a number of witnesses to the hearing to support his evidence.
Tsósane said the woman’s testimony “had no bearing on the case of sexual harassment against him”.
He also noted that there was confusion on the dates the alleged abuse was said to have happened.
Tsósane’s was found not guilty.
“Based on the above, I conclude that the evidence before is insufficient to found a verdict of guilty,” the judgment said.
But Petlane said despite this verdict Tsósane might have thought that he still wanted to settle scores.
“That is why he made that false report to the police when I went to the bank,” Petlane told the Lesotho Times.
Although Petlane’s court papers say Tsósane had reported that he was dangerous and was obstructing banking services, the police’s Occurrence Book – a record of daily reports – read quite differently.
The Occurrence Book shows that when Tsósane went to Maseru Charge Office he reported an assault case against Petlane.
“Retsélisitsoe Tsósane a m/m (male Mosotho) aged 42yrs of h/m (headman) Thapelo Mokhothu u/c (under chief) Mampota Masupha of Berea Ha-Makhothu presently staying Ha-Makhothu Berea working at First National Bank (FNB) reported the case of assault common,” the book reads.
This report was made at around 10.30am on August 12, according to the record.
When contacted for comment, Tsósane said he could not say anything because the matter was now in court.
“I can’t comment at the moment because this matter is still with the police,” he said.
Webber and Newdigate, the lawyers representing FNB and Tsósane, have since written to Petlane’s lawyer Letuka Molati informing him of their intention to challenge the claim.
“Our client denies that it or Mr Tsósane are liable on the basis as alleged by your client, or at all, with the result that no payment will be forthcoming herein,” the letter said.
“Any action which your client might institute for the recovery of the amount claimed or any other amount will be strenuously defended.”
It could not be established when the matter will be heard.