MPs clash over missing police officer

MPs clash over missing police officer

Staff Reporter
MASERU

THE government says a police officer, Constable Mokalekale Khetheng, who went “missing” in March has deserted.
Labour Minister Thulo Mahlakeng, who had stood in for Police Minister Monyane Moleleki in Parliament last Thursday, said Khetheng was waiting to see the district police boss at the police station’s reception desk when he suddenly left without saying anything.
Mahlakeng was responding to a question by the All Basotho Convention’s Mokhotlong MP, Tefo Mapesela, who wanted to know if the minister was aware that Khetheng had been arrested and kept in custody at Hlotse Police Station where he disappeared.
Mapesela further asked if the minister was aware that Khetheng’s relatives did not know where he was and how soon the minister would intervene.
Mahlakeng denied that Khetheng was arrested and said he was instead summoned by the Leribe police commander to explain why he had deserted his post in Mokhotlong since March 11, 2016.
“He indeed reported himself in Hlotse on March 26 to meet the commander. He arrived just before lunch. He left the reception room and went outside. He never came back,” Mahlakeng said.
But Mapesela was not happy with Mahlakeng’s explanation. The MP told Parliament that Khetheng disappeared while he was at the police premises after he was arrested by the police who were travelling in a Toyota Quantum from his home in Sebothoane in Leribe.
“The minister must investigate this because Khetheng was fetched by the police from his home,” Mapesela said.
“We want an answer as to what the police have done until now about the disappearance of that police constable.”
Mahlakeng responded by saying Mapesela should have given that background when he wrote his question so that proper investigations could be done.
He however added that “the police have not done anything to search for the policeman who disappeared from work”.
“What they have is that this person is not at work, he is absent from work without permission meaning he has deserted,” he said.
Mahlakeng said Khetheng’s relatives should help the government by providing evidence that he had not deserted so that further investigations could be done.
An MP for the ABC, Lekhetho Mosito, asked if Mahlakeng was denying that the policeman was arrested on March 26 and kept in custody in Hlotse.
Mahlakeng said the MP “should be aware that in our answer we are saying he was not arrested but was summoned with the instruction of the Mokhotlong Police Commander to report himself at Hlotse”.
There was near chaos in Parliament with some MPs complaining about the government’s response while others supported Mahlakeng.
Asked why the government had not investigated the police officer’s disappearance, Mahlakeng said “only two months of April and May had passed”.
“It is not unusual for the police to desert,” Mahlakeng said, adding: “It is not only the police (officer) who deserts from their jobs.
“Some other senior officials, even in the army, are said to have crossed the river and are absent from their jobs for many months.”
“That is we know that he is not at work without permission and has deserted by so doing,” he said.
The parliamentary debate on Khetheng came a day after his father, Thabo Khetheng, filed a habeas corpus application in the High Court.
Thabo Khetheng is asking the High Court to order the police to produce the body of Police Constable Khetheng and to release him to his family.
In an affidavit, Thabo Khetheng said his son was attending a traditional feast at his home when three police officers arrived and arrested him on March 26.
He said the arrest happened at around noon and they drove him to Hlotse Police Station.
He said 10 days later on April 5 he and his other son, Mabula Khetheng, went to the police station in Hlotse to find out what had happened to Khetheng but his efforts to get information from the police was in vain.
“Up to date, I do not know the whereabouts of my son, despite numerous attempts to find out where he can be,” Thabo Khetheng said in the affidavit.
“I am apprehensive that his life is in grave danger or he may even be dead, especially in view of the time period since he was kidnapped,” he said.
“I aver that it is unlawful and highly irregular for the police to keep a person in custody for this long without charging or taking him to court.”

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