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MoA owes workers millions in arrears

MPHO MOKWAPE
Karabo Gare PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Government owes Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security (MoA) employees millions of pula in arrears following a Court of Appeal (CoA) dismissal in a case in which attempts to appeal an order to pay failed.

The ministry had before it attempted to appeal two High Court judges’ 2020 ruling on the separate matters being ordered to pay employees over P3m for failed timeous promotions and progressions.

The workers had taken the government to court complaining, among other things, about salary arrears, scarce skills allowance arrears, leave days and overtime allowance arrears.

The CoA recently dismissed the ministry’s application for leave to appeal the High Court judgement.

The ministry had claimed that both judgements were delivered in June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in their absence and that it took time for them to see them.

However, Justice Isaac Lesetedi dismissed their application saying reasons were accounting for the delay in applying for the appeal. He explained that even though the applicants seemed to grasp the requirements in respect of the threshold for prospects of success, they failed to appreciate such threshold in respect of the reasons accounting for the delay.

“Not only that, there are in any event no exceptional reasons provided showing why, after August 24, 2020, it took the applicants almost a month to file the ill-fated application and thereafter almost two months after its dismissal to file the present application,” he said.

Justice Lesetedi said it was trite that in explaining the delay a party must not only explain the period of delay but also show that it acted expeditiously upon discovering its default.

At the heart of the attempts to appeal the dispute was that Lobatse High Court judges, Reuben Lekorwe and Gaopalelwe Ketlogetswe, handed the judgements on June 30, 2020, and June 19, 2020, respectively as the workers were in two groups and had appeared separately before the judges seeking the same reliefs.

Before Judge Lekorwe, 11 employees had

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appeared before him arguing that the ministry had failed to backdate their promotions and progressions and in so doing had violated their labour rights.

They also sought to have the ministry pay their arrears in respect to salaries, scarce skills allowance, overtime allowance and leave days while in Justice Ketlogetswe seven employees appeared to seek the same reliefs.

In Justice Lekorwe’s judgement, the state was ordered to pay the workers the sum of P1,376,650.15 representing their salary arrears, 40% scarce allowance arrears, 15% overtime allowance and leave days’ arrears.

He also ordered that thereon a rate of 10% per annum from the correct date of promotion and progression, and the cost of the suit.

Judge Lekorwe said the ministry in delaying the promotions in the manner they did was in breach of the employees’ contracts of employment or better still in breach of directive No.6, which binds them.

“The directive was clear and the plaintiffs are entitled to the reliefs they are seeking. The issue of unavailability of either posts or funds is just a blatant stratagem by the defendants to avoid the consequences of their tardiness,” he said.

Lekorwe explained that the directive revealed that not only the government curtailed the period within which an employee was to be considered for progression/promotion but also obviated the need for periodic requisition of posts and funds.

He said it seemed to have been the position that was all along held by the higher echelons of public service as evidenced by other cases that came before the court.      

Meanwhile, Justice Lesetedi’s dismissal of the appeal was concerning Lekorwe’s judgement while the ministry is also trying to appeal Ketlogetswe’s judgement as it is yet to be heard before the CoA.



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