Prisons boss under fire

Prisons boss under fire

MASERU – THE opposition says the prison boss Thabang Mothepu’s dismissal of the Ombudsman’s findings against his appointment shows he was politically compromised.
The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) former Secretary General Bokang Ramatšella said the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) was the most politically infested institution in the country.
His comments followed a damning report by the Ombudsman, Advocate Leshele Thoahlane, that his appointment as commissioner was illegal.

Mothepu has since dismissed the Ombudsman’s report as a joke.
The opposition says Mothepu’s reaction to the report betrayed where his political loyalties lay and how the government had politicised the state institution.

Ramatšella says when Commissioner Mothepu was promoted, he also made his own promotions despite the Ombudsman’s restraining order that he should stop new promotions.
Mothepu, who has had a bristly relationship with the Ombudsman after last year’s spat with him when he refused to be searched, says he confronted Thoahlane when he heard about his findings.
“I just heard about it on the radio and even on social media,” Mothepu said, adding that he asked the Ombudsman about his recommendations and findings “but he did not answer my questions”.
“He is joking,” he said.

Thoahlane has blasted Mothepu’s promotion saying it is illegal.
He said this in his report published last Friday.
The report also showed that all the promotions Commissioner Mothepu made in the office are also illegal.
Thoahlane said there was a general understanding amongst LCS officers that there was no promotions policy.
“They alleged that the promotions were done on the basis of the LCS Act 2016 which gave powers of promotions of subordinate officers to the Commissioner while promotions of commissioned officers were left in the hands of LCS promotions board,” he said.

Thoahlane said most of the seniors including the Commissioner admitted that there was no promotions guide while some believe there were guidelines published by former Commissioner ’Matefo Makhalemele through a circular thereby legalising them as standing orders although in many cases such were never followed.

He said the officers who felt left out pointed out that the acting Commissioner was promoted after driving one political leader to a local stadium.
He said they very much believed that his promotion was politically motivated hence he was promoted even though he was still on a special probation.

The Ombudsman said the commissioner did not refute the statements as the officers stood their ground saying it was the LCS policy that an officer on special probation should not be considered for promotion.
But Mothepu was promoted to a position which was two ranks higher than the one he occupied, he said.
The report said during the appointment of Commissioner Mothepu there was still an incumbent commissioner.
That commissioner was Makhalemele who proved that she was still in office, getting her full salary and benefits.

The report said Commissioner Makhalemele was just on an annual leave while the incumbent Commissioner Mothepu informed the Ombudsman that he had since been confirmed as the LCS Commissioner.
Thoahlane said the confusion at that level means confusion in the entire institution.
“It meant that Mothepu’s appointment as the Commissioner while the substantive holder was still in office was illegal so were the decisions including promoting officers was illegal,” he said.
Thoahlane also said Mothepu’s appointment to act in the position of the commissioner in the absence of Makhalemele was well within the Prime Minister’s powers.

“This meant that the promotions (which were) done were illegal,” he said.
Mothepu was promoted to a position which was two ranks higher than the one he occupied, Thoahlane said.
He said Mothepu and other six officers were seen escorting a politician to the stadium and then got promoted despite their criminal record.
He said senior officers like Assistant Commissioners were seen and heard campaigning to inmates in the run-up to elections to vote for certain political parties.

“That is proof that there was a political spirit overcasting the institution and the Principal Secretary of Justice to deny the issue was just to brush it aside,” he said.
He also said the Commissioner had been given too much unguided powers to promote and this leaves room for abuse.
Thoahlane said commissioner Mothepu refused to release files of the concerned promoted officers for perusal by the Ombudsman so that ruling could be made without taking sides or favouritism.
“We could not prove if those promoted were qualifying,” he said.

Ramatšella said the Ministry of Justice under which the LCS falls is managed by (Deputy Prime Minister Monyane) Moleleki’s party, the Alliance of Democrats (AD).

He argued that promotions which have been made by commissioner Mothepu are also politically driven.
He said Lesotho prisons have been turned into party branches and it is his hope that reforms should correct all these challenges.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) spokesman Teboho Sekata said justice should be done looking at the Ombudsman’s report.
“What we know is that the government hires politically. We know it is true the promotions were politically motivated,” he said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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