MASERU — The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) top brass is facing a fresh contempt of court charge after they allegedly ignored a High Court order to accept a junior soldier’s sick leave application on Monday.
The order was issued by Justice ’Maseforo Mahase.
Lieutenant Colonel Tau, commander of 11 Battalion of His Majesty’s Light Infantry Brigade, could be jailed if Justice Mahase finds him guilty of the contempt charge when she hears the case on October 15.
The LDF commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and his deputy Major General Motšomotšo have also been cited in the contempt charge for signing and authorising a recently introduced rule that overruled Justice Mahase’s order.
Justice Mahase on September 7 issued an interim order interdicting Lt Gen Kamoli and Tau from rejecting Private Theko Lerotholi sick leaves pending the finalisation of the main case on whether the army should allow or reject such leaves.
Despite the clear order, only 11 days later Lt Gen Kamoli allegedly authorised the introduction of the Lesotho Defence Force Sick Parade Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and have them signed for by Motšomotšo.
“What is surprising and shocking is that these SOPs, which came into operation on Tuesday 18th September 2012 after the Interim Order was issued by the Honourable Justice of this Honourable Court on Friday 7th September 2012, seem to be a tool intended for the respondents to counter the order of court to the detriment of the health conditions of the applicant,” says Lerotholi’s lawyer Advocate ’Mole Khumalo in court papers.
“Thus, there is a need to be promptly subjected to court’s scrutiny and reviewed so as to know quietly well whether it is in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the law or not,” Khumalo said.
The SOPs were used against Lerotholi on Monday when he presented his sick leave application before Lieutenant Colonel Tau who refused it on the basis of the contents of SOPs.
Lieutenant Colonel Tau was the second respondent in the interim order Justice Mahase issued last month.
The SOPs demand that a soldier should not consult a private doctor “without first being viewed by a military medical doctor” at the Makoanyane Military Hospital (MMH).
“Referrals to other hospitals are going to be made by MMH only with the exception of emergencies,” the SOPs reads.
“Adherence to these SOPs is of paramount importance for the healthy running of the organisation and the security of the members’ good health.”
The document says it is “imperative that this facility is utilised to its maximum by members before opting to go to the private hospitals”.
“If a member (of the LDF) falls sick while at home and taken to a private doctor and is issued a sick leave, such a member will take the sick leave to a military doctor to be certified,” reads part of the SOPs.
“Sick leaves issued by private doctors shall be certified by a military doctor and handed in to the DMS (Director Military Service), thereafter such member shall personally hand it to his/her unit commander,” say the SOPs.
The SOPs also require that every morning all sick soldiers be marched to the parade ground and form up with other soldiers where the duty non-commissioned officer (NCO) will take their roll call and report to the duty officer who will in turn report to the senior duty officer.
“The names of all sick members shall be properly recorded in the duty occurrence book on daily basis,” read the SOPs.
“Failure to adhere to these SOPs shall call for legal action.”
Lerotholi had earlier told Justice Mahase in court papers, that resulted in the interim order against his bosses, that he had vowed to never go to Makoanyane Military Hospital years ago when Lt Gen Kamoli was still a major.
The decision came after a combined unit of the police and soldiers assaulted him in 1994.
He claims the assault left him in poor health and unable to perform some military duties.
He said because of the assault he becomes sick frequently and in many cases he obtains sick leaves from medical doctors.
But he said he decided never to consult the military doctors after Lieutenant Colonel Tau allegedly tried to force him to undergo medical treatment at the Makoanyane Military Hospital.
While at the hospital the current army boss Lt Gen Kamoli, then a Major, allegedly tried to force hospital management to admit him.
“He tried to force one Major Tlelai, who is the Deputy Director of Medical Services, to admit me at that hospital,” Lerotholi said.
“I approached Major Tlelai in the presence of first respondent (Lt Gen Kamoli) and told her that the doctor never recommended me for admission, and will never attend that hospital. I then left; indeed up to this day I have never, and I can never go back to MMH because of the first respondent’s statement.”
Justice Mahase will hear the case on October 15.