Justice for Khetheng

Justice for Khetheng

WE must confess that last week’s issue of thepost was not a pleasant one to edit. There were just too many shocking stories of violence and torture. It appeared as if the whole newspaper was dripping blood. Yet, it would have been an act of gross negligence on our part if we were to ignore these stories. As a newspaper we have a moral duty to tell it like it is no matter how unpleasant that may be.

The violence that we covered liberally in the newspaper last week is a vivid reminder that something is fundamentally wrong with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS)’s policing methods and with us as a society. As Lesotho embarks on key political reforms, it is critical that we uproot the current modus operandi of using violence and torture to extract information from suspects. This is not a case of a few bad apples spoiling the name of the police. The violence appears to be systemic at all levels.

We are convinced that Lesotho needs a complete shift from the old way of doing things when it comes to policing. It must therefore have taken a lot of guts and soul-searching on the part of the Acting Police Commissioner (APC), Holomo Molibeli, to apologise to Basotho for the police’s many indiscretions.  But much more will need to be done, beyond a mere apology, to restore the people’s trust and confidence in the LMPS as a force for good. We write against a background of the violence meted by the police against defenceless civilians in Koro-Koro, and the brutal assault of former police spokesperson Lerato Motseki.

This was an addition to the murder of a junior police officer, Constable Mokalekale Khetheng, also at the hands of his colleagues. In the case of Khetheng, a young life was snuffed out just like that over a matter that looks so mundane.  That it has taken a complex and costly court process to get the wheels of justice moving is totally unacceptable. His murder raises fundamental questions about the use and abuse of power in Lesotho.

Who else knew about this killing? Was there an attempt at the highest levels to cover up his death? If that was so, what does this say about our humanity as Basotho? These are critical questions that must be answered. Khetheng’s killing must trigger a deep soul-searching on our part. We are however pleased that since the dramatic arrest of the suspects last week, the investigations have moved a gear up in the quest to establish what happened to Khetheng.

We commend the decisiveness of the police commissioner and the government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in getting to the bottom of the matter. No stone must be left unturned to find those who were behind the heinous crime. We do not think any human being, with his humanity still intact, could remain unmoved by the heart-wrenching scenes at his exhumation last Friday. No family should be subjected to such torture.

The merciless killing of Khetheng and his secret burial point to a political culture that had gone rogue. It is for this reason that his killers must face the full wrath of the law. Yet his murder also provides a chilling reminder: that what happened to Khetheng can also happen to you. While the police have stepped up their investigations, they must tamper their enthusiasm guided by Lesotho’s unwavering commitment to a culture of human rights. Lesotho is bound by International Conventions that outlaw the use of torture against suspects.

It is against that background that we also wish to raise our concerns with the brutal assault of the former police spokesperson Motseki last week. Nothing can ever justify such a naked use of violence against a defenceless woman.

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