Two senior correctional officers suspended

Two senior correctional officers suspended

MASERU – TWO senior correctional officers have been suspended in connection with the tampering of a safe that keeps keys at the Maseru Central Prison. The acting Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner, Thabang Mothepu, told a press conference yesterday that the police and the National Security Service are now investigating the matter.

Mothepu however declined to reveal the names of the suspended officers except saying they are a superintendent and an assistant superintendent.
He also declined to reveal more details about the matter saying doing so would compromise prison security.
The security scare at the maximum security prison comes amid allegations that some prison officers were having inappropriate relationships with high profile prisoners.

There have been charges that some prison warders were sneaking cell phones into the cells of soldiers who are held there.
Mothepu however dismissed the claims as baseless.
High profile inmates at the Maseru Central’s maximum security prison include former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

Lt Gen Kamoli is facing 14 counts of attempted murder and one of murder and the state considers him a flight risk.
There are 13 other soldiers who are awaiting their trials in the prison for different crimes.
They include four Special Forces members, Second Lieutenant Litekanyo Nyakane, Private Sebilo, Private Makoae and Private Tlakeli who are suspected of killing three civilians in Mafeteng in 2012.

Others are Military Intelligence Commander Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Captain Mahlehle Moeketsi, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali and Private Nthathakane who face three counts of murder and abduction.
They are suspected of strangling three men and throwing them into Mohale Dam in May.

The prison also has Second Lieutenant Hlehlisi and Corporal Mokhesuoe who are accused together with Lt Gen Kamoli in connection with the bombings at the home of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s then girlfriend, Liabiloe Ramoholi, and her neighbour in 2014.
They are also accused of bombing the home of the then commissioner of Police, Khothatso Tšooana, who is now the principal secretary for the Ministry of Police.

The prison also has Captain Haleeo Makara, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ’Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi who face the charge of killing the army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015.
It also has Khutlang Mochesane, Mahanyane Phasumane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane and Maribe Nathane who are accused of shooting and maiming former Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri.

The prison has Captain Boiketsiso Fonane, Corporal Sebolai, Private Ratšiu and Private Matsoso who are accused of having a hand in the assassination of Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo in September. LCS acting commissioner Mothepu said: “We do not at all allow prisoners to be given phones without monitoring them.” “It is a pure lie aimed at tainting our image” to say cell phones were sneaked into cells of some soldiers, he said. “Yes, sometimes prisoners are allowed to make calls but it is under strict supervision,” Mothepu said.

“Every prisoner, regardless of who they were and positions they held before coming to correctional service are treated equally,” he said.
“Those who held commanding positions in politics, security service or any post lose their right to be saluted when they come in here.”
He also refuted allegations that the keys were actually stolen and recovered later. Mothepu said on Monday morning when the district commander reported to work in his office he realised that the safe that keeps prison keys and other important documents was hard to open when he tried it.

Mothepu said the commander then realised that the safe had been tampered with. “However, the keys were not stolen,” Mothepu said.
Mothepu said the district commander then called the police and the national security services to begin investigations.
“And we shall also have our own investigations as a department,” he said. Mothepu said they had to call in a safe expert to confirm that the safe had been tampered with and to assist the office to open the safe to check if anything was missing.

Mothepu said to their shock, they realised that one key of the new prison building opens several doors.
“Investigations that may lead to more officers being suspended are still ongoing,” Mothepu said.
“We want Basotho to know that prisoners are safe and will be kept in prison for the time the law allows them to be in there,” Mothepu said.
“Our security is of the highest level,” he said.

Rose Moremoholo

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