The suspended Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko has emerged triumphant in a contempt court case against his employer.
The judgment, delivered by Magistrate Teboho Thoso, mandates the corporation to fulfill its obligation to pay Nko his salaries and associated benefits as stipulated in his contract.
Magistrate Thoso emphasised the fundamental principle of law that presumes a person’s innocence until proven guilty by a competent court of law. Applying this principle, he affirmed that Nko, facing disciplinary proceedings, is entitled to his full salary and benefits during his suspension.
Thoso said: “It is a cardinal principle of law that originates from the rules of natural justice and has also been entrenched into our constitution as the supreme law of the land that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law or tribunal as the case may be.
He added: “Similarly, the applicant herein enjoys the same right to be presumed innocent on the charges he is about to face before the disciplinary inquiry until he is found guilty of them. It, therefore, follows that as long as he remains on suspension, he is entitled to his full salary together with benefits attached to it because it is his right,” he said.
This verdict follows a protracted dispute between Nko and the LTDC that has persisted since the beginning of the year.
The CEO’s suspension stemmed from an incident involving a shooting at Hillview in Maseru on December 27, 2022. As a consequence, he was suspended from his role at the corporation.
Nko initiated legal action, challenging the lawfulness of his suspension.
In response, Magistrate Thoso issued an interim order barring the LTDC and its Board from taking any disciplinary actions against Nko pending finalization of the matter.
Nko sought his rightful salary and benefits in accordance with his contract but the LTDC board could not entertain his request and summoned him to a disciplinary enquiry.
The courtroom proceedings revealed that the corporation had deliberately withheld Nko’s salary and benefits on the grounds of his allegedly exhausted paid leave.
“On the basis of the submissions made by respondents, this court does not agree with the interpretation made by them that the applicant is on sick leave and has exceeded his number of paid sick leave days hence they have cut his salary,” read the judgement.
“The sick leave that they are referring to has specifically stated that the applicant was declared unfit for work or appearing before disciplinary enquiry between February 6 and February 20, 2023,” it added.
It also stated that: “Lastly, with reference to the main application, the issue of whether the applicant was lawfully or has been lawfully suspended is still a sub-judice, before this court, and therefore concludes that the applicant remains on suspension pending disciplinary enquiry against him.”