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Loan row sucks in minister

Tefo Tefo

MASERU — Civil servants who have been locked in a bitter row with three money lending institutions say they now want Finance Minister Timothy Thahane to intervene in the dispute.
The decision to appeal to Thahane came out after the civil servants met at their lawyer’s offices in Maseru on Friday.
The civil servants had earlier on Friday met a delegation from the department of treasury to complain about the continued deductions from their salaries.
They said the deductions were in violation of a High Court order which barred the treasury from deducting their salaries.
The High Court on October 21 last year ordered the treasury to stop deducting civil servants’ salaries to pay the money lending firms.
The order was served to the treasury on October 23.
The order came after the civil servants had asked the High Court to declare their loan contracts with Afrisure (EEZY Management Services), B-Blue Financial Services and Select Management Services null and void.
The civil servants argued that three firms were charging exorbitant interest of 65 percent on their loans which was way above the stipulated 25 percent.
The money lenders however argued that the additional interest was to cover administrative charges.
In a judgment delivered in November, the High Court ordered the treasury to stop the deductions.
The money lenders however took the case to the Court of Appeal and filed a stay of execution against the High Court order.
The High Court dismissed the money lenders’ application on November 17 for a stay of execution with most civil servants getting their full salaries in November.
Although the deductions were halted in November they resumed the following month triggering a meeting between the civil servants and a delegation from the department of treasury on Friday.
The treasury delegation was led by accountant general, Mosa Macaskill.
The Sunday Express understands that the treasury department’s head of salaries, Motimpana Motalingoane, was also present at the meeting.
But when the delegation reported back to other civil servants it was resolved that Thahane should be contacted so that he could pronounce the government’s position on the matter as the treasury had not fully complied with the court order.
“I think it would be wise to arrange a meeting with the minister (Thahane) for him to clarify the government’s position in this matter,” said one of the civil servants.
The suggestion came after one of the delegates, Mongale Letsatsi, told the civil servants that the treasury officials had only agreed to refund people who had lodged the applications in court.
She was referring to 166 civil servants who won a case against the three money lending companies last October.
“They (treasury officials) said it was a mistake that some people whose names appear in the court order have been affected by the deductions.
“They promised to refund them by the 31st of this month. 
“But they said they could not stop deductions to other civil servants whose names were attached after the court order,” she said.
This left the other civil servants with only one option to consult their lawyer to lodge a similar lawsuit against money lenders.
Their lawyer Advocate Kananelo Mosito said he was ready to file papers in court against the money lenders tomorrow.
Mosito said he would file an application at the High Court on behalf of about 3 000 civil servants who are affected by the continued pay deductions tomorrow.
This is a huge jump from the 166 who were involved in the initial case.
The Sunday Express understands the application against the money lending firms could spread beyond the three companies that were listed in the initial application.
However, the names of other money lending companies could not be established.
Meanwhile, Letsatsi said treasury officials had also stated in Friday’s meeting the department had nothing to do with deductions made by a certain  local bank (name supplied).
This resulted in the civil servants resolving to warn the bank against interfering with October’s court order.
The bank is likely to be one of the respondents in the lawsuit to be filed in the High Court tomorrow.
Meanwhile, attempts to reach Macaskill for comment were unsuccessful.
When the Sunday Express called his office on Friday at 15:50hrs, the secretary asked the reporter to call back after 10 minutes, to allow her time to pass on the message.
When the reporter called back a few minutes later, the secretary said Macaskill would not field any questions.
“He says he has no comment,” she said.
The civil servants said they would fight “to the bitter end” until the matter was fully resolved.

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