The High Court has overturned, albeit temporarily, a decision by the Maseru Magistrate Court that Member of Parliament (MP), Mokherane Tsatsanyane, should be arrested after it found him guilty of contempt.
In April last year, Magistrate Lebusa Tšosane ordered that Mokherane should not interfere with the management of Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company.
Tšosane also restrained Tsatsanyane from acting or purporting to act as or holding himself out as the director, officer, or official of the company.
Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company belonged to Tsatsanyane’s late father, Moeketsi Chaltin Tsatsanyane, who died on July 16, 2021, without a will leading to a feud between his two sons.
Death threats and court challenges now mark a vicious feud between Mokherane and his brother Moorosi over the estate of their late father.
According to papers filed in the High Court last year, Moorosi made a WhatsApp voice note in which he allegedly threatened to kill Mokherane who is an MP for the opposition Democratic Congress (DC).
The magistrate court’s order that Mokherane should be arrested followed an application by the Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company that Mokherane should be interdicted from interfering with the company’s management.
“Mokherane has collected the said rent using violence and threatens that he would shoot anyone refusing to comply with his demands for rent,” Tšepang Phangoa said in the court papers.
“He (Mokherane) asserted that he has fought for the place using guns and therefore in the absence of his father he is the one in charge,” Phangoa added.
He further told the magistrate court that he was appointed as the managing director of the company after the death of Moeketsi Tsatsanynae.
He said the company had a number of buildings and rooms which are let out for rentals, “and the rentals are collected by the managing director of the company or any other duly assigned board member”
Phangoa told the court that he was “dismayed and surprised” when Mokherane collected rentals for the month of December 2021 amounting to M3000.
Mokherane was also interdicted from being in the company’s offices and on its premises at the Main Bus Stop Area in Maseru.
He was also ordered to refund the rentals amounting to about M3000 which he had collected from the company’s premises on or around December 8, 2021.
But Mokherane did not comply with the order and continued to collect rentals amounting to M12 500 in the process.
The magistrate court then found him guilty of contempt and was subsequently arrested by Pitso Ground police in Maseru in December 2022.
He challenged the magistrate court’s decision in the high court.
In an affidavit filed on December 13, 2022, Mokherane said that his lawyers became aware of the fact that the company which sued him had since been struck off from the registry of companies due to non-compliance with the company registry directives.
The company, according to Mokherane, failed to file annual financial statements in terms of the Companies Act.
“I have been further advised and believe same to be true that only a legal entity which has not been struck off is entitled in law to sue and be sued in its own name,” he said.
He added: “The third respondent (the company) had no locus standi to bring the application against me before the Magistrate court under CIV/APN/MSU/0174/21.
“Consequently, even one Tŝepang Phangoa who purported to have been authorized to institute the proceedings in the court a quo against me does not have any locus standi.”
It has also emerged that on October 28, 2022, the Executive Committee of the Lesotho Bus and Taxi Owners Association suspended Phangoa as secretary of the association.
“With this letter, the Executive Committee of Lesotho Bus and Taxi Owners Association informs you that it has decided to suspend you as its Secretary,” the executive committee noted in the suspension letter.
“We thank you for the work you have done but we are worried that you have been collecting rentals from our building at the Bus Stop without giving us a report,” it added.
The committee also said it was surprised to learn that Phangoa had instituted legal proceedings against Mokherane without informing the association.
“You have also purportedly appointed yourself as the managing director without our knowledge as the board,” the suspension letter also read.
High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moahloli, on December 22, 2022, ordered that Mokherane be released with immediate effect pending finalisation of the matter.
Moahloli also ordered that the respondents to show cause, if any, on February 9, 2023, why the normal periods and modes of service cannot be dispensed with on the grounds of the urgency of the matter.
The order continued that the execution of prayer two (a) of the order granted by the first respondent (Magistrate Tšosane) on November 9, 2022 and the order granted on December 1, 2022, “be and are hereby stayed and suspended pending finalisation of this application”.
It read: “The third and the fourth respondents (Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company and Officer Commanding Pitso Ground Police Post) be and are hereby ordered to release the applicant from custody forthwith pending finalisation of this application.
“The contempt proceedings under CIV/APN/MSU/0174/21 pending in the Magistrate court be and are hereby stayed pending finalisation of this application.
“That the contempt proceedings against the applicant in CIV/APN/MSU/0174/21 before the first respondent pending in the Magistrate court shall not be reviewed, corrected, and set aside,” the order continued.
The High Court order further stated that: “The second respondent (Clerk of court Magistrate Court Maseru) be and is hereby ordered to dispatch the record of the proceedings in CIV/APN/MSU/0174/21 within seven days of receipt hereof.”