Ruling brings long-running court battle to an end
MASERU — The long-running row over the ownership of a transport firm ended on Tuesday after Justice John Lyons upheld a decision by the company’s board of directors to sack Makhoabe Mohaleroe as a director.
Commercial Court Judge Lyons ruled that the directors of the Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company (LPMTC), the firm at the centre of the dispute, were right in removing Mohaleroe as a director because he had a criminal record.
The LPMTC appointed new directors last year after establishing that Mohaleroe could not continue as a director because of his criminal record.
The Companies Act prohibits any individual with a criminal record to serve as a company director.
However, the decision to kick out Mohaleroe hit a brick-wall after High Court Judge Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane ruled that he was qualified to act as a director because he had repented.
The new LPMTC board, led by former politician Moeketsi Tsatsanyane, filed an urgent application in the Commercial Court asking it to order the Registrar of Companies to register their board.
They also wanted tenants at the company’s premises in Maseru to pay rentals to the new board and not to Mohaleroe.
They also wanted the court to interdict Mohaleroe from collecting rentals from the tenants.
The main applicant was the LBTOA which appointed a company trustee, Ishmael Monare, to appear on its behalf.
Mohaleroe countered the applications arguing that Monare had no locus standi because he was not a shareholder.
He argued that Monare was not listed anywhere in the company’s registration papers as a shareholder or a director.
Mohaleroe’s lawyer, Mokorosi Chobokoane, told Justice Lyons on Monday that the LPMTC was established by three directors and there was no evidence to link it with the LBTOA.
“The company was formed by three people on their own and they were not representing the association at all.
“The applicant (Monare) is not a shareholder. Being a trustee as purported does not give him powers to act on behalf of this company in this case,” Chobokoane told the court.
Chobokoane also argued that Mohaleroe was not given a chance to be heard before he was removed as a director.
Justice Lyons agreed with Chobokoane that Mohaleroe deserved to be heard.
Justice Lyons said: “It seems to me that if everybody is heard, this will (help maintain) the integrity of the system. But if the court acts on information it has not heard, this is going to be a great injustice.”
Justice Lyons then gave the parties the chance to resolve their dispute out of court saying his duty as a judge was not to give orders that would embarrass other people.
However, on Tuesday at 10.30 a.m. when the court resumed the parties had not agreed on anything.
That left Justice Lyons with no option but to give his order.
Justice Lyons upheld the decision to fire Mohaleroe as a director of the company. He also ordered the Registrar of Companies to immediately register the LPMTC’s new board of directors.
He also ordered all tenants to pay monthly rentals to the LPMTC’s offices and restrained Mohaleroe from collecting rentals from the tenants.
Mohaleroe has also been interdicted from entering the LPMTC’s premises “and from interfering in any manner whatsoever in the property and with the tenants”.
Commenting on the outcome of the case, a jubilant Monare said: “Heaven’s angels have defeated the devil and from today onwards Basotho will know that LPMTC exists for their benefit, after 26 years of litigation.”
Their lawyer, Tekano Maqakachane, said it has been very unfortunate that the dispute had been allowed to drag on for decades.
However, lawyers representing Mohaleroe told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday night that they were appealing against the order.