Maseru, Aug. 08 — The High Court through Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane has on Wednesday shown disapproval of the conduct among public servants and the government of Lesotho whereby payments of terminal benefits for retirees are delayed.
Speaking in a case between the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and its retired employee Mrs. Maneo Buti whereby the Minister together with the Principal Secretary in the ministry were called to court to explain non-compliance of a court order directing that Buti be paid her benefits, the Chief Justice stated that the conduct has become a culture in Lesotho.
He indicated that pensioners die bitter people because they have not received their benefits. He said that it is not correct that the courts have to force the government to pay the citizens. He remarked that retirees from the public service are citizens of this country who have served the nation and earned their pension benefits. He added that people who have reached their retirement age are vulnerable therefore should not be treated badly.
The Chief Justice suggested that maybe the government should come up with a bill that will criminalise failure to pay pensioners within two months after retirement. He said additionally there should also be a legislation allowing the retirees to claim damages when they are not paid on time.
He remarked that someone is sleeping on the job therefore they should be dealt with ruthlessly after they are given a hearing. He suggested that people who fail to do their work should be sent to jail. He indicated that the test is to enforce the law not to quote it.
Chief Justice Sakoane said the conduct is a bad reflection on the government. He further said the duty of the courts is to uphold and enforce the law adding that good governance and democracy require the government to uphold the law without being forced to do so.
While on the stand, the Minister of Public Works and Transport Mr. Matjato Moteane acknowledged that the conduct does not reflect well on the government. When asked what he thinks should be done to address the problem, he said rules and regulations that guide payment of pensioners should be used. He further said legislative reforms should be in place. He added that the government should be accountable and ensure that pensioners are paid on time.
Also while on the stand, Principal Secretary in the same ministry Ms. Tsepang Koele admitted that the conduct shows bad administration adding that it is embarrassing. She said it is not correct that the government should wait for the intervention of the court before they could pay pensioners.
The High Court had on September 2, 2021 issued a court order directing the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to pay Mrs. Buti her benefits after she approached it for its intervention. The court order was not complied with until the court called the minister and the principal secretary for contempt of court.