MASERU — The 13 sports commissioners fired by government two months ago have taken their case to the Court of Appeal, challenging last month’s High Court ruling that upheld a ministerial decision to boot them out of office.
In papers filed in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, the former commissioners are appealing against Justice Gabriel Mofolo’s judgement of November 20, 2009 — in which he dismissed, without costs, their application for reinstatement that cited unfair dismissal by the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.
The commissioners had approached the High Court arguing the ministry had acted unfairly and unilaterally in dismissing them on October 13 this year. The commissioners were fired after 20 sporting associations passed a vote of no confidence in the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission board at an AGM on October 11.
The ministry had, in turn, dismissed the commissioners through a letter written by the principal secretary, Makalo Theko, which pointed out their term of office had expired on September 30.
The disgruntled commissioners had then written to the High Court on October 27 seeking an interdict — which was granted on November 3, thereby suspending the ministry’s decision and also barring the LSRC chief executive from interfering with the organisation’s finances until the matter was finalised.
Justice Mofolo had then dismissed the commissioners’ application without costs, with stakeholders thinking the matter had finally been laid to rest.
“Account had to be taken that the commissioners had to go to preserve calm. It was expected by the minister that the new commission would have been elected (at the AGM) but it never happened. The minister had to act promptly. The chief executive officer (of the LSRC) shall be Sports Commission director. The spirit of action is to make a smooth transition to a new commission. It does not seem that the minister was motivated by any ulterior motive but expedience.”
“Nowhere have I seen in the LSRC constitution that the commissioners continue for a further three months after their tenure has expired. Section 12 (1) of the Sports Act says they can have a three-year tenure and can be re-elected,” Justice Mofolo had said in his judgment.
But the commissioners on Monday upped the stakes in their battle to remain in office, in a move that threatens to plunge local sport further into chaos.
The commissioners, in their latest court action, have listed their grounds of appeal. In their appeal, the commissioners argue that:
• The judge erred in holding that appellants were given sufficient time to make representations to the Minister of Sport before her order became effective.
• The case projected was that appellants were not entitled to be heard.
• In as much as the minister’s said administrative decision adversely affected the appellants, it was vitiated by the former’s failure to afford the latter a prior hearing.
• The judge erred and misdirected himself in holding, as he did, that the tenure of the appellants had expired.
• The judge erred in not making the order for costs in favour of appellants.
With this move, the fate of the LSRC elections — which had been scheduled for January 9 next year — is anybody’s guess.