MASERU — The First National Bank (FNB) and its branch manager Rets’elisitsoe Ts’osane have successfully appealed against a judgment awarding M65 000 damages to a Maseru businessman Solomon Petlane.
The High Court had awarded the damages to Petlane who had sued the bank and its branch manager wrongfully and falsely laid charges.
Court of Appeal judge Justice Craig Howie upheld the appeal with costs ruling that the respondent “failed to prove that Ts’osane acted unlawfully with the intention to injure him.”
Howie said the action ought therefore to have failed.
In a judgment which Judges Douglas Scott and Wilfred Thring concurred with, Howie ordered that the defendants be absolved.
The Court of Appeal also set aside the High Court judgment and ruled that “the defendants are absolved from the instance with costs.”
High Court judge Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase had awarded M65 000 damages to Petlane.
The plaintiff in his high court papers alleged that Ts’osane had wrongfully and intentionally and recklessly went to lay false charges at Maseru Central Charge Office against him.
The FNB branch manager, according to Petlane, had further alleged that he (Petlane) was inside the bank and was “dangerous.” Ts’osane had also alleged that the plaintiff was obstructing, or had caused a halt to banking services.
The plaintiff had told the High Court that acting on the defendants’ “false and injurious” allegations, the two police officers arrived at the bank where the plaintiff was still doing his usual banking.
Petlane had told the court among others, that the two police officers, without cautioning him, manhandled him in the presence of customers in the banking hall and into the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).
This had impaired his dignity.
However, the bank and Ts’osane had said in their pleas that the respondent was “hovering” outside Ts’osane’s office, and he felt unsafe because the respondent had threatened to cause him harm and he had informed the police.
The bank and Ts’osane denied any wrongful intention on their part.
The Court of Appeal dealing with the evidence said it was plain that the video footage revealed the respondent’s evidence to have been false in several material respects.
The court noted that although the respondent protested when challenged under cross-examination about the film evidence the footage contradicted his evidence.
It shows that he did not go straight to the counter after entering the bank and that he was not manhandled at all while in the banking hall before going into the ATM area.
According to Judge Howie, the essential question was whether it was proved that Ts’osane’s act in having called the police was accompanied by the intention to injure the respondent and whether it was wrongful.
The Court of Appeal judgment indicated that in addition, the film showed the manner in which he was approached at the counter by the policemen was entirely civil.
The court further noted that at some point, Ts’osane was accused by the respondent’s woman friend, who was an employee of the bank of sexual harassment, following a disciplinary enquiry which absolved the branch manager.
Deputy chief executive officer of the bank Denis Mbingo had testified that the respondent had telephoned him that evening as they had spoken before about the woman’s complaint.
According to Mbingo, the respondent had said he would “sort” (Ts’osane) out and that he would teach him a permanent lesson.
Mbingo then went to tell the branch manager.
Judge Howie said in his views, the words like sorting out, teaching lesson and evading imprisonment conveyed enough threat that the respondent would take the law into his hands and inflict injury on Ts’osane.
The judge said this interpretation is reinforced by Mbingo’s reaction to threats and his concern to provide Ts’osane with protection.
The next morning after the bank opened for business, the respondent entered the bank and paced up and down outside Ts’osane’s bank office. When Ts’osane saw him he telephoned the police and locked himself until they arrived.
The Court of Appeal observed that Ts’osane had a lawful right to take reasonable steps to prevent an unlawful attack upon himself.
Advocate PJ Loubser appeared for appellant.
There was no appearance for the respondent.