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Police recruits launch fresh bid to have Molibeli jailed

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE 12 recruits who claim to have been badgered by Commissioner Molibeli since May 2022 when they joined the Police Training College (PTC) want him jailed for 60 days for contempt of court.

This after Commissioner Molibeli on Tuesday slapped the recruits with fresh letters to “show cause why” they should not be suspended with full benefits from the police force pending his appeal against their reinstatement orders.

According to those latest  “show cause” letters, they had until yesterday to make those representations.   But they will no longer need to do so after their lawyer  Rethabile Setlojoane rushed  back to court and won an interdict against  Commissioner Molibeli’s latest attempts to expel the 12.

Adv Setlojoane also filed a fresh contempt application against  Commissioner Molibeli for daring to try to re-suspend the 12 this week despite the existence of the two court orders protecting the recruits from being removed from the PTC.

The applicants 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 and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are first and second respondents respectively in the application.

The recruits argue in their latest application that Commissioner Molibeli is in contempt of court for seeking to suspend them despite the existing two court orders barring  their removal from the PTC.

They therefore want the court to jail him for 60 days for contempt of court as well as make him pay the cost of the latest lawsuit from his own pocket.

“The facts giving rise to the present application are so disturbing and this court will really frown at the abuse of power (by first respondent……,” Ms Dlamini states in her founding affidavit filed on behalf of all the applicants. She adds Commissioner Molibeli’s latest conduct demonstrates that he does not take the authority of the courts seriously.  It was high time the courts reined him in.

“I aver therefore, that the first respondent’s conduct amounts to blatant contempt of court. He is deliberately rendering the orders of this court meaningless and useless,” declares Ms Dlamini in the founding affidavit.

“He (Molibeli) is clearly determined to frustrate the execution of this court’s orders and by so doing rendering this court a toothless bulldog. It is my contention that this conduct clearly has the effect of bringing the administration of justice in this country into total disrepute….”

By asking them to make representations on why they may not be suspended based on the same set of facts already rubbished by the courts, Commissioner Molibeli was essentially trashing the rule of law, the recruits say.

The applicants said they were first slapped with “show cause” letters on 15 May 2022 asking them to explain why  they could not be expelled from the police force for having “characters which are not satisfactory”.

They went to court on 24 May 2022 to challenge that move.  Justice ‘Maliepollo Makhetha granted them an order to remain in the police service until the finalisation of their main application seeking the nullification of Commissioner Molibeli’s entire plan to expel them.  Commissioner Molibeli nonetheless fired them the following day despite that interdict.

The applicants immediately filed another application to nullify their dismissals. Justice Tšeliso Mokoko then  issued another order upholding Justice Makhetha’s 24 May 2022 ruling  that the recruits remain in the police until the finalisation of their main application.

Justice Mokoko made it clear in his 29 June 2022 ruling that Commissioner Molibeli’s decision to expel the recruits despite Justice Makhetha’s order was “irregular and wrongful and therefore, null and void”.

Still, the 12 were denied entry into  the PTC the next day on 30 June 2022  despite the fact that there were now two court orders in their favour.  That compelled  Adv Setlojoane to rush back to court to sue the commissioner for contempt of court.

Faced with the predicament of that contempt application, Commissioner Molibeli then sought a  stay of Justice Mokoko’s 29 June ruling,  arguing  that he had noted an appeal against it.

Justice Mokoko rejected the stay application.

The angry judge said he was convinced Commissioner Molibeli was wilfully disrespecting court orders. He had also ordered the commissioner to appear in person to explain himself.

The police boss had appeared in person and apologised to the judge, claiming that he had misunderstood Justice Makhetha’s order and had  only received it after he had already expelled the 12 recruits. He however, said he had issued letters reinstating the recruits before coming to court in person.

Justice Mokoko then spared him jail for contempt.  The only outstanding issue then became the payment of the wages of  the 12 recruits for the months that they had been expelled from the PTC.

The parties had been ordered to appear before court yesterday to explain before Justice Mokoko whether the recruits had been paid their outstanding salaries for the periods they had been dismissed as had been  ordered earlier. Instead, the judge found himself having to deal with a fresh contempt  of court application arising from Commissioner Molibeli’s latest actions in seeking to re-suspend the 12 despite the two orders barring such a move.

Commissioner Molibeli has been given until 24 August to file his responding papers to the latest contempt of court application. The 12 recruits have been given until 29 August to reply to the commissioner’s answering papers.  Commissioner Molibeli will then file his heads of arguments on 31 August with the recruits filing theirs on 5 September before a hearing date is established.

While issuing these deadlines yesterday, Judge Mokoko reiterated his displeasure with Commissioner Molibeli and gave him yet another tongue lashing.

The judge described  Mr Molibeli’s latest conduct as a disguised way of continuing to disobey the two court orders already issued to protect the 12 recruits.

“The intention of the Commissioner is that he is staying the order of this court in a disguised manner. He is not saying they (the recruits) did anything wrong while back at PTC (to warrant their latest suspensions) but the suspension is merely on the issue that he has noted an appeal. This is untenable……..” Justice Mokoko said.

He then interdicted Commissioner Molibeli’s latest attempts to suspend the 12 pending the finalisation of the latest contempt application.