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Molibeli faces contempt of court charge

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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Moorosi Tsiane

A FIRED police officer has petitioned the High Court to jail Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, for six months for contempt of court. This after he ignored Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase’s 13 October 2022 interim order to reinstate the officer who he fired last month.

Commissioner Molibeli expelled Butha-Buthe based Police Constable (PC) Serame Duma on 4 October 2022 for allegedly taking a bribe from a motorist in July this year.

However, PC Duma approached the High Court to fight his dismissal and obtained an interim order staying his dismissal. In his latest notice of motion, PC Duma prays that Commissioner Molibeli be brought before the court to “show cause” why he cannot be committed to prison for six months for contempt of court.

He argues that his sacking was contrary to section 31(1)(i) of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Act NO.7, 1998, which stipulates that the Commissioner may dismiss an officer after giving him an opportunity to make representations.

He argued that Commissioner Molibeli did not grant him a fair hearing before expelling him. He therefore, pleaded with the court to order the police boss to reinstate him pending the finalisation of his case.

The interim order was granted by Judge Mahase on 13 October 2022 but Commissioner Molibeli has continued to ignore it.

This has resulted in PC Duma going back to court to sue him for contempt of court.

Commissioner Molibeli, the LMPS’s Human Resource Officer and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to third respondents respectively in the application.

In his court papers, PC Duma’s lawyer, Sebabatso Hatane, accuses Commissioner Molibeli of failing to obey Justice Mahase’s order to reinstate his client.

“An order was granted by Her Ladyship Justice Mahase on the 13th day of October 2022 that Applicant (PC Duma)’s dismissal be stayed pending final determination of this matter and that he be reinstated to his post. The respondents were served with the interim court order on the 14th day of October 2022.

“As a result, the respondents are aware of the interim court order that stays the dismissal and orders the reinstatement of the applicant to his post. The applicant has nonetheless not been reinstated notwithstanding the clear order issued by the Court. The case is still pending before this Honourable Court,” Advocate Hatane states.

He says the matter is urgent because PC Duma has been highly prejudiced by the police boss’ failure to reinstate him in line with the interim order.

He argues that the court must ensure that its orders are adhered to, especially by the law enforcement agents like the Commissioner.

This is not the first time that the police boss has been dragged to court on such charges.

Back in July this year, he escaped doing jail time for contempt of court by a whisker. The police boss walked out of the High Court a relieved man after an irate Judge Tšeliso Mokoko decided against sending him to the slammers. Instead, the judge accepted Commissioner Molibeli’s grovelling apology for failing to comply with the judge’s judgement compelling him to reinstate 12 recruits who were dismissed from the Police Training College (PTC) in May 2022.

Justice Mokoko had on 29 June 2022 ruled that Commissioner Molibeli’s decision to expel the recruits was “irregular and wrongful and therefore, null and void”.

The 12 are Moliehi Dlamini, Mokhethi Damane, Lebaka Matiea, Kopano Ramokhoro, Ngaka Lenka, Mojela Gugushe, Thabang Maime, Lechesa Lepheane, Poloko Sekhohola, Refiloe Kheleli, Moorosi Kalane and Sebongile Cekwane.

Commissioner Molibeli has had the last laugh in this matter after the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the High Court judgement and uphold the dismissal of the recruits. The apex court has not yet given reasons for its decision. At the time of their dismissal in May, police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the 12 recruits were sent home after they were found to be “medically unfit to begin training while the others were dismissed due to their unbecoming behaviour”.

Before that in October 2021, the police boss was spared jail for contempt by Justice Molefi Makara.

Justice Makara threw out a contempt of court application which had been filed against him by the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA).

The police union had petitioned the court to find him guilty of contempt of court for his failure to reverse the 2018 police promotions of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Beleme Lebajoa, and 170 other police officers.

The judge had nullified the promotions in June 2021.

However, the same judge spared the police boss’ blushes by ruling that although Commissioner Molibeli was wrong for failing to reverse the promotions, he ought to be given the benefit of doubt in the matter because he had been ill-advised by the force’s legal department.

The judge blasted the police’s legal department for being unprofessional and expressed doubts about its integrity.