There will be no winners in dispute

There will be no winners in dispute

OVER the last couple of months, we have watched with sadness the bitter standoff between Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA).

When the dust has finally settled and one of the two parties has been vanquished, we can safely state that there would be no winners.
Instead the feud will likely leave the institution seriously bruised with devastating consequences for national stability. As it stands now, the dispute poses a serious national security threat.

That is why it is extremely urgent for Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to find a quick solution to the dispute.
We know from our recent history how a bitter power struggle within another key security sector, the Lesotho Defence Force, ended. If we do not learn from history and act accordingly, we risk repeating the same mistakes that we saw playing out in the army.

The dispute within the army left two generals dead and put the country on the precipice of an inevitable civil conflict which was only forestalled by the timely intervention of SADC.
We still have not fully recovered from that national crisis.
That is why we think it is urgent to nip these divisions within the police in the bud before they develop into a full-blown national crisis.

When we began hearing these shrills of protest from LEPOSA about four months ago, we thought the police officers had very genuine grievances.
They wanted the government to improve their salaries and conditions of service. They wanted issues surrounding their back-pay addressed.
They had issues with the promotion policy within the police and the issue of arbitrary transfers addressed.

In our view, these were very genuine complaints that the Police Commissioner could have addressed without a fuss.
In recent weeks however, we have seen LEPOSA beginning to step up the ante by demanding the very ouster of Commissioner Molibeli.
By demanding the sacking of Commissioner Molibeli, we think LEPOSA has now crossed the line.

The dispute has now essentially moved away from labour-related matters into the realm of politics. What we have now seen is a LEPOSA that is seeking to unionise what is essentially a labour issue.
If the Majoro-led government acquiesces to LEPOSA’s demands, it would set a wrong precedent and open floodgates of further instability. Beyond the removal of Commissioner Molibeli the police will never know any peace.
Prime Minister Majoro must therefore stand his ground and not bow down to pressure from LEPOSA.

LEPOSA was not the appointing authority and therefore has no right to demand the removal of a Commissioner they did not appoint. This is not rocket science. It is simple logic.
Of course, Commissioner Molibeli himself must be careful that while he is trying to enforce his authority, he does not appear to be an overbearing leader. He must be careful that he does not overstep his powers by seeking to purge all critics from the LMPS.

Instead, he must be a unifier. He must demonstrate leadership by steering the police towards its core mandate – which is fighting crime.
The wrangle within the police has come at a massive cost for Lesotho. While LEPOSA and Commissioner Molibeli are fighting, that has not put a stop to the surge in murder cases, the femicide and the petty crime.
Instead of reforming the police, we still hear sad stories of torture by badly trained officers.

These are the issues the police must be focusing on. The government must move swiftly and resolve once and for all this embarrassing row.

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