Army roped in as police bosses clash

Army roped in as police bosses clash

MASERU-THERE was drama at the police headquarters in Maseru on Tuesday after armed soldiers stormed the building in an attempt to defuse a potentially violent stand-off between two police bosses.

The army is said to have reacted after the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli and his bodyguards forcibly removed from office Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Sera Makharilele.
DCP Makharilele was appointed acting police commissioner after Commissioner Molibeli was suspended last week.
Commissioner Molibeli rushed to the High Court which granted him an interim order nullifying the suspension.
Sources at the police headquarters told thepost that Commissioner Molibeli’s bodyguards, who were supported by heavily armed police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU), forcibly removed DCP Makharilele from office at gunpoint.

Immediately after that incident, a batch of armed police officers who were backing DCP Makharilele took strategic positions around the building ready for action.
It was during that stand-off that army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, rushed to the police headquarters under guard from a band of heavily armed soldiers.
thepost understands that Lt Gen Letsoela went there to mediate between the two warring factions within the police.
“I could not stay in the office under such a situation,” a source said.

“I had to rush out because I did not know what could happen. You can see for yourself that the way things are anything can happen anytime,” he said.
Another police officer who also stormed out of the office said he was going home because he was afraid to go back to the office “lest I get trapped in there when things become bad”.
Scores of police officers were seen milling outside the police headquarters watching developments from a distance.
Both uniformed and plain clothed officers were also seen going up and down the road outside the headquarters yard for about three hours.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli could not shed light on what was happening telling this newspaper he was still waiting for his bosses’ meeting with the army commander to get a briefing.

Commissioner Molibeli was first sent on a 60-day forced leave on January 2 and he responded by filing an urgent application blocking the move.
On January 3 the High Court granted an interim order allowing him to remain in office until January 6.
Then on January 5 he discovered another letter informing him that Thabane was considering advising the King to “require” him to retire over charges of misconduct.
“It should be an obvious thing that your conduct in question has grave potential to have a negative bearing on the performance of your duties and discharge of responsibilities as the overall operational commander of the Lesotho Police Service,” said the letter.

The letter gave him seven days to give reasons why the Prime Minister could not advise the King to retire him.
A memo dated January 7, 2020 which was issued by the police management said DCP Makharilele was reverting back to his substantive position with Commissioner Molibeli back in office.
The army spokesman, Colonel Mashidi Mashidi, said his boss had been sent there “by the authorities in government to mediate between the fighting police managers”.
Commissioner Molibeli was sent home after he asked Thabane to explain the circumstances surrounding the use of his mobile phone during the murder of his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane, in June 2017.

Commissioner Molibeli attached the letter he wrote to Thabane in his court papers, in an attempt to illustrate that he was being hounded out of office for investigating Lipolelo’s murder case.

Nkheli Liphoto

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