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PS of local government in hot water

by Lesotho Times
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  • after allegedly defying court order
  • accused of lying to court

Moorosi Tsiane

PRINCIPAL Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship, Home Affairs and Police, ‘Mamphaka Mabesa, has landed in hot water after allegedly defying a High Court order.

Ms Mabesa stands accused of defying Justice Maliepollo Makhetha’s 5 June 2023 order for the ministry to stop interfering with the terms of employment of Maseru Town Clerk, Selate Molete.

Mr Molete had filed an intervention application in May last year for the court to interdict then Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Moshe Leoma and his then PS Moshe Mosaase from interfering with his employment contract pending finalization of his main application to retain his job.  He had launched the intervention application after his predecessor as town clerk, Moeko Maboee, had also gone to court to demand his job back.

On 5 June 2023, Mr Molete had been granted an interim order interdicting Minister Leoma and PS Mosaase from “interfering with the applicant’s terms and conditions of his employment contract pending finalization of this application and the main application before this Honourable Court.”

However, on 25 January this year, Ms Mabesa who was appointed Local Government and Chieftainship, Home Affairs and Police PS in December last year, wrote a letter of assignment to Mr Molete transferring him from the position of Town Clerk to the Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS) under the same ministry.

Mr Molete rejected the transfer and instead asked for a meeting with Ms Mabesa to discuss the issue further. To his surprise, while they were still locked in negotiations, Ms Mabesa advertised the Town Clerk position as vacant.

This forced Mr Molete to approach the courts, filing a fresh application of contempt of court which was heard by Justice Makhetha on Tuesday.

Mr Molete argues that the June 2023 order remains extant to date as the intervention application is still pending before the court.

Justice Makhetha ordered that Ms Mabesa be brought before the court on Wednesday (yesterday) to explain to the court why she could not be arrested for contempt of court for defying the June 2023 interim court order.

Mr Maboee, Maseru City Council, Local Government Service Commission, Chairman Local Government Service Commission, Ms Mabesa, Minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs, Home Affairs and Police Lephema Lebona, Officer Commanding Maseru Central Police Station, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are cited as first to ninth respondents in the matter respectively.

When appearing before Justice Makhetha led in evidence by Advocate (Adv) T Mohloki on Wednesday, Ms Mabesa said she misunderstood the said court order, and she apologised saying she is determined to rectify that mistake by cancelling the assignment letter and will reinstate Mr Molete to his position as Town Clerk.

Ms Mabesa said she had only come to understand the order after consulting with the Ministry’s legal team on Tuesday after Mr Molete’s latest application.

“I was appointed PS Local Government and Chieftainship, Home Affairs and Police on the 1st December 2023 and before me this position was occupied by Moshe Mosaase. My Lady, at first I didn’t understand the court order and that is why I assigned Mr Molete to the new position.

“But after I received the new application yesterday, I sat down with the Ministry’s legal team to understand what the order means. I was advised to cancel the appointment letter and reinstate him to his position. I didn’t intentionally defy the order therefore I do apologise and am willing to rectify that mistake. I sincerely apologize. As soon as I leave the court premises, I will write the letter withdrawing the reassignment letter and I will meet up with the Town Clerk although he is on sick leave and will be back to work on 11 February 2024,” said Ms Mabesa.

But Justice Makhetha did not take any of that, saying it was clear that Ms Mabesa was lying to her as Adv Mohloki informed the court on Tuesday that he had advised her to withdraw that advert as there was a case still pending before the court.

“It is on record here by your lawyer that he advised your office. You are lying to this court by saying you only met with your legal team after this court order of yesterday. He said you were advised that there is a case pending before court so you cannot appoint a new town clerk,” said the visibly irate Justice Makhetha.

Mr Molete’s lawyer, Adv Sello Tšabeha, in cross examination refuted Ms Mabesa’s claim that she was not aware of the order when advertising the position. After she wrote a letter assigning his client to the new post, he said they had immediately written to her reminding her of the court order but she had decided to ignore it.

Adv Tšabeha said Ms Mabesa also got a letter from Adv Rethabile Setlojoane, who represents Mr Maboee, on 29 January 2024 advising her to withdraw that advert as there was still a pending case, but that letter was also ignored.

Mr Maboee is Mr Molete’s predecessor who is still challenging his removal from the top post.

“What you are telling the court is not true, you have always been aware of the order and you were intentional about defying it. On the 29 January 2024 you advertised the post after he (Molete) warned you that there was a court order. I put it to you, you were very intentional on defying the court order despite being advised because you were hellbent in achieving whatever you wanted to achieve.”

Adv Setlojoane said the fact that Ms Mabesa was giving the court “different version” of when she got legal advice was because she was not telling the truth.

“You said you only met with your legal team when served with an application of contempt on 31 January 2024; that is what you said in your evidence in chief but during cross examination you said you met with your legal team after you were served with Molete’s letter. These two statements cannot possibly be true.  Do you agree with me?” asked Adv Setlojoane.  Ms Mabesa conceded.

The matter will continue on Monday and all parties are expected to have filed their heads of arguments by this Friday.


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