MASERU — A former security manager at Lets’eng Diamond Mine who once accused Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of “meddling with the court” lost his appeal case at the Court of Appeal last week.
Bofihla Makhalane who was dismissed for alleged negligence and dishonesty in October 2007 had approached the Court of Appeal seeking relief after the High Court dismissed his application for reinstatement.
After the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DPPR) had ordered his reinstatement Lets’eng Diamond Mine had instructed that Makhalane attend a pre-suspension hearing that was supposed to deal with his alleged misconduct during the time he was challenging the mine’s decision to fire him.
The company argued that the pre-suspension hearing was a condition for his reinstatement.
It said it wanted to institute fresh disciplinary action against Makhalane because his “conduct was such that it was inimical to a continued working relationship between” the two parties.
Makhalane then approached the High Court seeking to interdict the company from conducting the pre-suspension hearing.
He also wanted the court to compel the mine to reinstate him without conditions as ordered by the DPPR.
The High Court then granted him an interim order stopping the proposed hearing from taking place.
When his application was finally heard Lets’eng Diamond Mine insisted that Makhalane should face a fresh disciplinary hearing before being reinstated and pointed out that the High Court did not have jurisdiction over labour disputes.
High Court judge Semapo Peete, who presided over the application, agreed with Lets’eng Diamond Mine’s argument that only the Labour Court and not the High Court had the power to deal with cases involving employer/employee relationships.
Justice Peete then dismissed Makhalane’s application with costs.
Makhalane, a former senior police officer, then took his matter to the Court of Appeal.
On April 20, Court of Appeal judge John Smalberger dismissed Makhalane’s appeal with costs, meaning that he now has to pay both his and the mine’s lawyers.
Justice Smalberger found that Justice Peete had been correct to rule that only the Labour Court, through its dispute resolution mechanisms as well as the exercise of its powers, has the necessary jurisdiction to entertain and resolve any disputes between Makhalane and his former employer.
Any further steps that the respondent may seek to take against him arising out of their employer/employee relationship also had to be dealt with by the same court, Justice Smalberger said in a judgment that could all but bring to an end Makhalane’s four-year court battle against Lets’eng Diamond.
In his appeal Makhalane had said after Lets’eng Diamond had failed to properly reinstate him there was no longer an employer/employee relationship therefore the Labour Court ceased to have jurisdiction over the matter.
This, he said, was the reason he had approached the High Court.
But the Court of Appeal said that the relief sought by the appellant in the High Court was one that the Labour Court was clearly competent to grant in terms of the relevant provisions of section 24(2) of the Labour Code.
“It follows that the appellant misconceived his remedy and that the High Court correctly held that it did not have jurisdiction to entertain his application,” Judge Smalberger said.
He said it was not necessary to consider various other points raised by Makhalane such as bias on the part of High Court judge Justice Peete and alleged misdirections.
These could not affect the outcome of the appeal, Justice Smalberger said.
Makhalane conducted his own application while Advocate Hjalmer Woker appeared for Lets’eng.