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Court blocks army from arresting soldier

Nat Molomo

MASERU — The High Court has issued an interim order blocking the army from arresting a junior officer who failed to report for duty.
Private Theko Lerotholi ignored an order to report for duty after his sick-leave request was rejected.
Lerotholi filed an urgent application in the High Court on Friday after the army allegedly tried to arrest and detain him for failing to report for duty.
Lerotholi argues that the army rejected his sick leave application despite the fact that his medical history is well known by his bosses and he had submitted a genuine note from the doctor.
He says his health deteriorated in 2004 after he was tortured by the police and the army on suspicion that he had stolen guns.
Since that ordeal — for which he was granted M150 000 in damages by the court last April — Lerotholi’s numerous sick leave requests had been granted without problems.
But things changed this month when he requested sick leave two days before he was due to return from his annual leave.
Lerotholi fell sick and was rushed to a doctor who said he should rest for three days.
He sent his “sick note” to his bosses indicating that he could only report for duty after three days.
One of his superiors told him that his sick note had been rejected and he had to report for duty immediately.
Lerotholi ignored that order.
He says on September 5 two officers came to his home and enquired about his whereabouts but his wife told them that he was away.
Another soldier later came back in the evening and told his wife that they wanted to arrest or detain Lerotholi because he had not reported for duty as ordered.
On Friday Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase issued an interim order temporarily stopping the army from arresting Lerotholi.
The hearing for the application will be on September 21.
The order says Lerotholi’s superiors should not reject his sick leave requests until the case is finalised.
In July this year Lerotholi also dragged the army to court after he was ordered to report for patrol.
After his refusal to go on patrol the army instituted a summary trial against him.
Justice Lebohang Molete granted him an interim order stopping the summary trial.
Lerotholi is represented by Advocate ’Mole Kumalo.

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