Labour Appeal Court to decide on Letšeng

MASERU — The Labour Appeal Court will tomorrow rule whether it has jurisdiction to hear a contempt of court case brought by a former employee of Letšeng Diamond Mine.

Bofihla Makhalane, who was a former security superintendent at Letšeng filed contempt of court charges against his former employers after they refused to reinstate him to his former position.

Justice Kananelo Mosito is expected to rule whether the Labour Appeal Court has jurisdiction to hear the contempt of court case as a court of first instance.

Letšeng Diamond chief executive officer, Mazvivamba Maharasoa, former general manager, Moruti Mphats’oe, and assistant general manager, John Howghton, allegedly refused to reinstate Makhalane back to his job in Mokhotlong despite a court order.

Makhalane was fired from Letšeng Diamond in 2007 for alleged negligence and dishonesty.

The company accused Makhalane of leaving the post on a crucial day when diamonds were being evaluated before exportation to Antwerp, Belgium.

The then chief executive officer, Keith Whitelock, reportedly saw the doors leading to the security control room open and entered without being noticed by the guards.

Makhalane was charged and dismissed from his job.

He took the matter to the Leribe Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), which ordered his reinstatement after finding that Letšeng could not prove its case against him.

The mine applied to the Labour Court for review of the case.

The Labour Court ordered that the case should start afresh under a new arbitrator but Makhalane appealed against the decision.

Dissatisfied with the Labour Court’s decision, Makhalane approached the Labour Appeal Court.

The Labour Appeal Court’s Justice Mosito ruled in favour of Makhalane and upheld the judgment of the DDPR.

But Letšeng Diamond refused to allow Makhalane to resume duties as a security superintendent.

He then approached the Labour Appeal Court seeking an order that would enforce his reinstatement.

On Tuesday last week Justice Mosito declined to hear the case saying he doubted the Labour Appeal Court’s jurisdiction on the matter.

Justice Mosito told Makhalane, who appeared in person, that the Labour Appeal Court was not a court of first instance and therefore had no jurisdiction over the case.

Justice Mosito said Makhalane should have followed procedures by filing his application in the Labour Court as a court of first instance.

He also said Makhalane could have filed an application in the Labour Appeal Court requesting it to be a court of first instance.

“Application like this has to be brought in the Labour Court not the Labour Appeal Court,” Justice Mosito said.

“This court cannot hear this matter because it does not have jurisdiction over it. Bring an application for the Labour Appeal Court to hear it as court of first instance.”

However, Justice Mosito said he would deliver a final and written judgment tomorrow.

Makhalane was applying for an order to force Letšeng Diamond Mine’s top management to come to the court during the hearing when Justice Mosito raised the issue of jurisdiction.

Makhalane argued in court that failure to come to court despite being represented by their lawyer would be another case of contempt of court.

Letšeng Diamond Mine was represented by a South African senior counsel, Hjalmer Woker, from Durban.

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