ACTING Commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), Chabana Majara, is locked in a fresh legal fight with his subordinate, Bokang Ramotena. This time the fight is over Commissioner Majara’s decision to demote her from current rank of Sergeant to the lowest LCS rank of Assistant Correctional Officer.
High Court Judge ‘Maseforo Mahase on Tuesday issued an interim order barring Commissioner Majara from demoting Sgt Ramotena pending the finalisation of her application for a final order to stop the demotion.
Sgt Ramotena is also challenging her suspension from the LCS. The suspension and demotion were both communicated in Commissioner Majara’s 27 April 2021 letter to Sgt Ramotena.
Trouble started for Sgt Ramotena, an outspoken critic of what she alleges are dubious promotions at the correctional service, when she was denied entry into the LCS Headquarters on Commissioner Majara’s orders on 30 November 2020.
She was on 17 March 2021, brought before a disciplinary hearing on charges of using abusive and vulgar language against Commissioner Majara.
“I was charged on 17 March 2021 for abusive or insulting language,” Sgt Ramotena states in her court papers.
“The disciplinary hearing proceeded and at one time I left the proceedings as I was not given statements and necessary documents relied on by the prosecution.
“The outcome of the hearing was never communicated to me. In terms of the law, the decision ought to have been communicated to me so that I may decide whether or not to appeal,” Sgt Ramotena states.
She further argues that her demotion is unprocedural and therefore illegal. She says that she has been humiliated and degraded by the demotion.
“Consequently, the entire process of my suspension was riddled with serious irregularities, improprieties and illegalities. I was not given an opportunity to make representations before the decision to demote me was made in violation of the principles of natural justice. Consequently, there has been a failure of justice.
“The respondent (Commissioner Majara), as the repository of power, did not apply his mind to the matter as I was not given a record of the (disciplinary) proceedings though the law requires the same to be accorded to me. The respondent was arbitrary as he did not afford me any prior hearing. In terms of the law, I can appeal to him in the event that I am not happy with the disciplinary outcome.
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“This unlawful demotion exposes me to continuing mental psychological torture. My dignity has been impaired by my demotion as I have officers under my supervision. The unmerited suffering I am being subjected to as long as the suspension remains in place is unbearable as it exposes me to irreparable harm,” Sgt Ramotena argues.
She therefore wants “the first respondent’s decision contained in the letter dated 27 April 2021 (to) be reviewed and set aside and consequently applicant be reinstated to her rank (of Sergeant) forthwith”.
The two have another pending legal battle before the High Court. In this particular case, Sgt Ramotena filed an application on behalf of the Lesotho Correctional Service Staff Association (LCCSA) seeking Commissioner Majara’s imprisonment for his failure to reverse the 2015 LCS promotions in line with 31 May 2019 Court of Appeal ruling.
The promotions of the eight officers were done by the then LCS Commissioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele in 2015.
Former LCS Commissioner, Thabang Mothepu, was among those whose promotions the Court of Appeal ordered to be reversed. Mr Mothepu had been promoted to the rank of assistant commissioner.
The other promoted officers were K. Moeno who was appointed Senior Assistant Commissioner, M. Raphuthing who was elevated to the rank of Acting Assistant Commissioner, Selahla (Senior Superintendent), Ntsasa as Superintendent, Rammasa and Bereng as Assistant Superintendents. M. Phamotse who was promoted to Acting Deputy Commissioner.
Mr Mothepu only reversed Superintendent Raphuthing’s promotion to the rank of Acting Assistant Commissioner after the Court of Appeal judgement.
Mr Mothepu was fired from his post as LCS Commissioner on 24 July 2020 by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. One of the reasons for his dismissal was his failure to reverse all the promotions as per the Court of Appeal ruling.
At the time the apex court issued the order, Commissioner Majara was the LCS Head of Legal Affairs, in essence, Mr Mothepu’s then chief legal advisor.