Diplomats await fate

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Ambassador ‘Malejaka Letooane
Ambassador ‘Malejaka Letooane

Tefo Tefo

ACTING Court of Appeal President Justice Ian Farlam yesterday reserved judgment to Friday next week in a case in which the government is appealing a High Court ruling that four recalled diplomats continue to hold their positions.

The envoys, Bothata Tsikoane (High Commissioner to India), ‘Malejaka Letooane (High Commissioner to South Africa), Mophethe Sekamane (Johannesburg Consul-General), and ‘Mabaphuthi Moorosi-Molapo (High Commissioner to Malaysia), were initially issued with letters dated 21 August 2015 asking them to “show cause” why their contracts should not be terminated and asked to report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations headquarters on 9 November 2015.

However, the diplomats opposed the recall through the High Court, arguing government had not followed due process in prematurely ending their tour of duty which started in 2012 when a new government led by then premier Thomas Thabane, came to power.

The case was still pending before the court on 28 October 2015 when the government withdrew the recall letters and “rectified” its mistake by slapping the diplomats with the “show cause” ultimatum.

The case was argued in the High Court on 10 November and the following day, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane said the government should have waited for her ruling in the main case before proceeding with the “show cause” letters as a new case.

The government, after withdrawing the recall letters, argued in the High Court that it was not necessary to proceed with the case because the letters had been withdrawn.

But Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane ruled in the diplomats’ favour and they continued occupying their posts. However, the government challenged the ruling in the Court of Appeal.

In his address to the Court of Appeal yesterday, the envoys’ lawyer, Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai said the judge was correct in ruling in his clients’ favour.

“When they (diplomats) were recalled, we challenged the letters on the basis that they were not given a hearing,” said Advocate Rasekoai.

“And when the case was still under consideration, they received letters withdrawing the initial letters simultaneous with the ‘show cause’ letters and we had to file the interlocutory application.

“Authoring the withdrawal and show cause letters was violating the principle of subjudice. We ask that the matter be removed from the roll with costs.”

However, Deputy Attorney-General Tsebang Putsoane argued that Justice Hlajoane “erred” by not upholding the argument that the case was no longer relevant because the recall letters were already withdrawn when the case was argued.

“The judge should have decided on the issue of mootness because our case was that the case was then moot,” he said.

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