Minister pledges to clean up ‘mess’

Minister pledges to clean up ‘mess’

THE Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has for years complained about poor working conditions, especially about dilapidated offices and residences.
The police staff’s complaints have been that the government is either slow or unwilling to solve this problem. Yesterday thepost’s Caswell Tlali spoke to the Police Minister Phallang Monare on the issue. Below are excerpts from the interview.

What is the Police Ministry is doing to solve the problem of rundown police stations and staff residences, which LEPOSA has been complaining of for years?
Let me start with renovations. It is true that things do not happen as quickly as one would want but we are doing our utmost to ensure that we have police stations which are acceptable and comfortable to work in. We are currently working on renovating many police stations and police posts countrywide. However, we have started with a few ones as a starting point. We have started with Qalo and Sehlaba-Thebe.

We also have new ones that we are going to build. Plans are already there all we have to do is to start. I don’t know what we can do to solve this problem of the delays by the government to do things quickly. We have six police stations that we were supposed to have built during this financial year. Funds are there, although I can’t tell how much we have. We were supposed to have built new stations in Butha-Buthe, Qacha’s Nek, Semonkong, Mantšonyane, Ha-Semione and Tšakholo.

At Ha-Semione, we have already started building. As for Butha-Buthe, I think tender notices are already being advertised in newspapers. We are about to start anytime.
We will be left with the stations at Ha-Semione and Qacha’s Nek. As for Qacha’s Nek, we were delayed by the non-availability of a site. The Ministry of Public Works is currently working on the design for the Ha-Semione station.

You have asked about the renovation of police residences. As I have already said, we want to improve the police residences in Mafeteng now, as a starting point.
There are other improvements in other stations. I want to appeal to the nation at large to contribute towards the improvement of conditions of service for the police. World Vision have been helping with office equipment in Maseru. This shows that there is room for the people to stretch their helping hand towards us.

There are some areas that are far away from police stations. What is the ministry doing to ensure that everyone accesses police services?
This is the truth. There are areas that are painfully far away from the police. Two weeks ago I was in Sekameng, Mafeteng, where the community is complaining that it is a struggle for them to get the police services because the police are very far away.

They have to travel to as far as Tšakholo or Ha-Mokhalinyane or the Mafeteng town and none of these areas is close to them.
The community, their chief and the local government councillor, met and marked a site for a police station and invited us to see it.
We are just waiting to build the station there if we will have enough funds in our next financial year.

Even if we will not have the funds, at least we have the site and the police station will be built in the next financial year or whenever we have the funds.
People need our services and it is our responsibility to meet them halfway whenever they make efforts such as this one. In this area, which is often experiencing violent crimes, we used to set up a mobile police post during Christmas holidays.

Now that we are going to build there, we will temporarily have park homes there as police offices until we complete the buildings.
In other areas such as Taung, we are talking about this issue of a police station. As you can see, there are two police stations at the border, one at Sephapho Gate and another in Liphiring both bordering South Africa.

However, these police posts are far away from the people. People in Taung have to either go to Mohale’s Hoek or Mafeteng towns to get police services.
It would be better if there was at least one in Silooe or Mohalinyane. Areas like Lekokoaneng, Ha-Buasono and Sekamaneng need to have a police station because as you can see there is no police station between Ha-Mabote and TY. Also atop the Berea Plateau you will not come across any police station from Maseru until you reach Sefikeng. There are many other areas such as these ones countrywide which need to have police posts.

We want to have as many police posts as possible. It is not good that people delay to get to the police or the police delay to get to a crime scene because of the distance.
There is a general feeling that our police are not educated enough to be at par with modern day crime.

Aren’t you planning to overhaul the Police Training College (PTC) to put it at the same level with tertiary schools?
There are two issues here. I am a teacher by profession and I have studied curriculum design and development.

One of the first things that I wanted to see when I entered this office was the PTC curriculum, although I have not yet studied it.
However, I am of the same feeling that it is outdated and needs to be revisited. The school authorities and I have briefly talked about it and we want to improve it so that it reaches the standard of a real college.

It is true that there are many police officers who are very educated, who hold educational qualifications from various universities and colleges but we feel that it is important to grow the PTC to such an extent that it will produce police of high quality. One of the things that need urgent attention if we want to improve the police human resource is to transform the recruitment criteria.  We must not recruit just anybody but people whom we believe are trainable and will bring value to the police service. We want to recruit and train police who will answer the modern needs of the people they are policing.

The criteria we use to recruit will determine the quality of the people we will have as our police.  Secondly, we need to improve the college’s infrastructure and equipment used to train our police.  This will enable us to continue training the police on how to tackle new challenges as well as training the new recruits. Recently our Police Commissioner was in China and when he came back he narrated to us how the Chinese were training their police, where he saw the recruits practising how to combat crime using computers.
This is what we want to see in Lesotho, in this day of cybercrime and other sophisticated crimes that need really educated police force.

We are negotiating with other developed countries to help us train our police in the same way as theirs. We will have on-the-job-training programmes for our old police while the new, revised PTC curriculum will start on the new ones. There are other concerns that the police tendency is to force staff to do jobs irrelevant to their training.

For example, a trained fire-fighter will be assigned to a post in the rural areas where he will chase thieves on horseback. How are you planning to deal with this?
Believe me or not, one of the first things I asked when I entered this office was the transfer policy and recruitment policy. I demand those so that I can be able to show the way.
Although every police officer should know every corner of the policing work, it is unsound to assign people duties in which they cannot display their competencies. Assignments that are irrelevant to one’s training are a recipe for failure.

We do not want to fail as the police service. This also applies to promotions. I know that there is much noise about the recent promotions in the police.
But I want to tell you that I am sure that what happened there was really necessary and was professionally handled.  When the commissioner said he wanted to make promotions, I asked him the criteria he was going to use and I ensured that the promotions were made based on merit, not anything else.

I say this because I am advocating for consideration of one’s work, competencies and history as the basis for promotions in the police and elsewhere.
If we stick to a policy such as this one, we will not have police who are arbitrarily transferred or given assignments irrelevant to their training.
This does not mean that the police should not do other duties with the purpose of being acquainted with other parts of policing. Not at all. But at the end, one should stick to that what they know best.

Lastly, what are your main priorities for the coming financial year?
Our main priority is crime prevention. We want to train the police and we want them to be efficient in preventing crime. Crime prevention must be intensified.

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