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‘Leposa has been hijacked’



THE past three months have been terrible for Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli. The Lesotho Police Staff Association (Leposa) is unrelenting in its attack on him and his senior management. The association is calling for his removal over a battery of allegations. Commissioner Molibeli has however stuck to his guns even as the association has sought Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s intervention and is threatening a massive strike. This week we speak to him about the chaos in the LMPS and its implications. In the following excerpts from the interview with Shakeman Mugari, the editor, the Commissioner pulls no punches as he accuses Leposa of playing politics.

What do you think are Leposa’s main issues with you and the management?
The issues they raise are neither here nor there. They don’t have specific issues because they are working for their political masters and pushing a political agenda. They have nothing.
But they have made a lot of allegations, including that you are dealing with the police’s brutality against suspects. Surely that is a serious matter.
When they talk about police brutality we accept and we are trying to decisively deal with it. We are succeeding because you can see that not a lot of cases of brutality are being reported. There was a time when every week we would have a report of someone dying in police custody.

What is however surprising is that when Leposa talks about police brutality they are, in a way, admitting that their own members are involved in killing people yet they have not done anything about it. Instead, they are pointing fingers. Now they are criticising us for acting against police officers accused of these crimes.

They say officers suspended for those crimes should be reinstated because the constitution says one is considered innocent until proven guilty. We expect Leposa to be part of our efforts to deal with these issues. Their purpose should be to assist in maintaining discipline within the police service.

They should focus on the welfare of the police and also make sure the police are professional to deliver good services to the people. We have not violated the constitution but even if we did then any one aggrieved can approach the courts for redress. You don’t approach the Prime Minister and petition him to order the police management to reverse a decision made according to the police’s regulations. You take your issue to the courts.

Who are these political masters you claim Leposa is serving?
We should understand that the police service is an arm of the state and therefore part of the executive. Politics is part of the game. People should air their views but politicians should not jump into the arena when there are police matters.

Sometimes you see the real politics showing its hand in police matters. Some of the matters Leposa is raising were part of the political campaign. I am talking about the issue of police brutality which featured prominently during the campaigns of the last election. Now you hear them being mentioned as part of Leposa’s issues.

Are these political masters within the government or from the opposition?
Whether they are within government or outside the point remains that there is politics at play. What is clear is that political parties have a lot to do with what is happening. Leposa has been hijacked and it’s no longer serving the interests of its members. What is important is the interests of the members and the impact of the police service.

The organisation should be seen to be apolitical as much as it can. Leposa should see to it that its members are not involved in politics. It is important for Leposa, its leadership and members to be seen to be apolitical.

You launched a blistering attack on the Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, in a radio interview. What was that about?
The police service is an entity of discipline and when we deal with issues, we respect each other because we give orders. But when someone of his status (Metsing) says we are equal with members of Leposa it means discipline should not exist. He is promoting anarchy within the police. He is advocating that officers should not be censured when they err.

You have been accused of purging senior Leposa members. In fact, Leposa’s leadership says you are on a warpath against them. How do you respond to that?
Members of Leposa are police officers. When Leposa makes that allegation it gives an impression that I work alone. The association has about 4 600 out of the 5 000 or so officers. This however doesn’t mean the majority of the members agree with Leposa’s position. It’s not true that I am targeting anyone. I have cordial relations with the majority of the police officers. The issue is with the executive committee of Leposa.

I get that but I am asking about Leposa members who have received “show cause” letters and have been transferred as part of what they say is a purge.
When someone is given a show cause letter it means there are issues they should respond to. That is the way of dealing with it. We are following the regulations. We cannot sit and fail to deal with issues.

Transfers are transfers. Some people might be unhappy. The protocol is that when you are unhappy with a transfer you give reasons and we listen to them. But if we don’t agree then the management makes the final decision. The important issue is however that you have been given an opportunity to make representations.

You were once part of the Leposa leadership. What is the difference between Leposa’s character during your time and now?
We used to have a negotiating team that would discuss issues. At one point we managed to get the police to have a structure and many officers benefitted from that change. We believed in negotiations and were patient. We got what we were asking for from the management and the government. The difference was that we worked to serve the interests of the members. We made sure there were no strikes. This Leposa leadership is pushing another agenda that has nothing to do with the interest of the members.

Who do you think are the main instigators on the Leposa leadership?
Trouble may be caused by anybody but what is certain is that the management of Leposa does not include high ranking members of the police. The highest rank there is a senior inspector. Other senior officers who are members of the association are not part of these occurrences.
Do you believe you are still in total control of the police?
Yes, 100 percent! That is why I can tell you that even when they said they will go on strike I knew that would not happen. The law says the police cannot strike. We were going to take action and we will take action if it happens. I am convinced everything will go back soon. I am grateful that the government leadership has intervened to help resolve the issues. That is the right move because Leposa has been given an opportunity to state their case.

What gives you the confidence that things will be fine soon?
Things are shaping up. For instance, there was a planned strike that did not happen. It will not happen because we don’t do that as the police. The police are now aware that they have been given a false impression of what is happening.

They are now trying to move away from politics. They are no longer giving their support to what Leposa is doing. The police officers themselves have started to air their views against what was happening. Things are normalising and you can see the police officers are committed to their work daily. They are dealing with cases and investigations are happening despite lack of resources.

Is it true that the police have sanctioned an investigation into Leposa’s financial affairs?
Yes, some members have approached our management and lodged a complaint against the association. They claim that there could be some financial crimes at Leposa. That case is under investigation. I however cannot say what kind of crime it is because that is part of the investigation.

Don’t you find the timing of that investigation curious, given the battles between the police management and Leposa? Some might think the management is using the investigation to get back at Leposa.
But what can we do when people are complaining? Should we wait for the misunderstanding to be resolved before investigating alleged crimes? I am saying these are parallel processes.

What is your view about the Prime Minister’s attempts to intervene in the dispute?
First, I must make it clear that I never refused to meet Leposa. That allegation is false. I don’t know for what gain it was made because I was out of office on 29 July when they wanted to meet me. I was with the Prime Minister at St Monica’s where there had been some murder incidents.

They were told that I was out of office but they insisted that it was an urgent matter and they had to meet me on that day. Because I was away, I sent a senior assistant commissioner to meet them. Leposa however refused to meet the senior assistant commissioner saying they wanted me.
What I am saying is that the endeavour by the Prime Minister is very noble and I am thankful he did that. The mission is to see cordial relations in the police. We should focus on service delivery. That is why the Prime Minister quickly established an ad hoc committee to deal with the issues.

You say politicians want to destabilise the police. For what good reason would they want chaos in the police?
Well, the politicians want support and when there is confusion, they take advantage. They are opportunistic like viruses. They want to take advantage of the situation in order to garner support. But I can assure you that they are failing. Their timing on this one was not spot on because police officers are now aware of the agenda. We have gathered intelligence to understand what is happening. We now know this is political and we will manage it as such.

Are you saying politicians are meeting Leposa leadership?
We know meetings are happening. There are secret meetings. We have details of the meetings but I cannot say because it’s classified intelligence.
What is the management doing to deal with police brutality?

The question of training is being looked at. We are trying to be responsive and professional. Right now, we are striving for collaboration with the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom to help us professionalise the police. We want in-service training in investigations and interrogations.
That will solve this issue of police officers assaulting and brutalising suspects. Secondly, we now have a counselling unit for psychosocial support for officers. We know some officers might be engaging in these crimes because of other issues. We have learned from past mistakes. Even out of bad situations you learn. We are learning and believe we will succeed.

How many people have died in police custody? Some say it’s 100 while others put the figure at 50. What is the exact number?
The problem is that we don’t count in a similar way. When we count we don’t start in such a way that it becomes relevant to political campaigns. They are from June 30. We don’t do that because each life matter. We count the number of cases irrespective of when it happened.
I don’t have the exact numbers because there are on-going investigations. The reality is that people have died in police custody and we are terribly sorry about that. But we cannot just say sorry without doing anything. We are correcting the situation.

What would you like to say to the police and the public about the current issues?
I am saying the police should keep doing the good work. They are doing a good job despite the lack of resources. I know things will turn out fine in the end. I want to say the police should remain apolitical. Those who are active in politics should remember that it is against the law.

It is not in the interest of Basotho to have a fragmented police. We should strive for a united police to serve the nation professionally. We should never betray the trust of the people who are trying to assist us. We have just received a vehicle and motorbikes from some people who want to see us succeed. We must deliver the best service so those people see that we are committed to our work.

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The beauty queen of Lesotho



MASERU – WHILE many children her age were still adapting to the early years of school after kindergarten, Reatile Molefe was already plotting her life goals. Barely 10-years-old, Molefe already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.

“I was already geared towards being a model at that early age. I was already portraying fancy and modest moves linked to modelling,” said the beauty queen, now aged 22.

It didn’t take time for her mother to identify the potential and found a need to sharpen it further.

“My journey in beauty pageantry started at the age of eight in 2009. The reason my mom thought I should hop into pageantry was because I was active and smart. I also had role models from the industry by then. I mean, I had an ambition of every little girl’s dream of being a star or being dressed in cute ball gowns so I also had a strong desire to be like that,” she said.

“I started my cat walking lessons at Little Miss Lesotho Companies but didn’t win. Not winning gave me motivation to work more towards my craft, it pushed me into wanting more as I couldn’t settle for less,” she said.

Molefe now boasts of 14 tittles to her name. She has donned the beauty pageant crowns in all stages of her life.

“I was crowned Queen in my two previous schools. I was Miss New Millennium High School in 2012 and Miss Lesotho High School in 2017. The 14th title I scooped made me believe in myself even more as I got to gain experience competing with people from different countries,” said Molefe, who has also made a bold statement by competing at the international level.

Molefe attributes her prowess to her high levels of confidence.

“Pageants create a bonding experience where women lift each other up, but what gives me an upper hand is being comfortable, secure with myself and being me throughout,” said Molefe, adding that her favourite category during pageantry competitions is when models are asked to strut the ramp in evening wear.

“That’s when the audience and the judges get to see the creativity, the poise and eloquence of the queens,” said Molefe, who believes that the audience’s response can destroy or build a contestant’s confidence.

“The audience can play either of the two roles during a contest. They may make a positive impact on females taking part because they teach them how to be resilient thus prepare them for real world situations. On the other hand, the audience may also make a negative impact and lead to a whole host of mental issues among participants who may be worried about their image and appearance. This can lead to harmful side-effects,” stated Molefe.

Like other women in the modelling industry, Molefe has come across some challenges.

“An example is trying to get enough support from the general public on my first international contest,” she said.

Another was the cost of competing in beauty pageants as well as evolving body changes, she said.

“Being a beauty queen is not a walk in the park, especially when being judged by the community. And, yes, pageants do help women grow in confidence but without proper mental health support, they can also create insecurities. But through all the struggles, I am thankful to my family and friends. They are my biggest supporters. I may have gone through it all but their unbending support has kept me going,” she said.

Molefe says she considers being crowned second runner up in the Miss Culture International competition held in Johannesburg in 2021 as her most outstanding achievement. She was also crowned Miss Culture Lesotho in 2018.

“What was intriguing to me about this contest was the fact that I was the youngest among the contestants. It proved to be a learning experience for me and it deepened my knowledge about what the modelling world really entails.

“I never doubted myself but I thought I wouldn’t make it as I was the youngest. I got to compete with people of different races, which got me even more motivated. I learned a lot in participating in a multi-racial event,” she said.

Pageantry isn’t just about looks, according to Molefe.

“There is to more to it, like being able to embrace glamour. Beauty is subjective and it can be interpreted in different ways according to the perception of individual viewers. I consider being beautiful as an inside and out perception but the golden rule is to brim with confidence to make it in pageantry,” said Molefe, urging parents to enroll their children in pageantry schools at an early age “even as early as three-years-old”.

“This gives them ample time to develop because the young ones are able to easily learn from others to improve their skills and boost their self-confidence,” said Molefe, who dreams of a day when a beauty queen is considered a legendary woman in Lesotho.

One of her goals is to assist in educating the youth, especially young women, about menstrual health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.

Her target group is mainly girls that live in rural areas and small towns.

“Pageants promote goal setting, encourage us to value personal achievement and community involvement,” she said.

Calvin Motekase

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The stock-theft menace



MASERU – IF you recently enjoyed a nice beef stew at a restaurant in Lesotho there is a high possibility that the slaughtered cow might have been stolen from a farm in South Africa.

If you are in South Africa, it is equally possible that the cow was stolen from a cattle post in Mokhotlong or any other mountainous region of Lesotho.

That is because cross-border stock-theft is on the increase between the two countries. In fact, it has become a thorn in the flesh for farmers on both sides of the border.

Since 1990, 85 percent of livestock owners on the border villages of Lesotho have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percentage from non-border villages, according to a study published by Wilfrid Laurier University.

Earlier this month, this problem came into sharp focus when four Basotho men were picked up by the police in Thaba-Nchu in the Free State.

These men, aged between 24-51 years old, were travelling in a car bearing Lesotho number plates. They were transporting cattle that did not have documents.

The SAPS informed their counterparts in Lesotho who rushed to the place to repatriate the suspects.

Maseru Urban Commanding Officer Senior Superintendent Rantoane Motsoela said their investigations uncovered that the cattle crossed into South Africa at Ha Tsolo through the Mohokare River.

Then they were transported from the border into South Africa.

S/Supt Motsoela said they have found that the cattle already had tattoo marks from one farmer in Ficksburg.

But the suspects had no documents to prove that the animals belonged to them.

Both the cattle and the car are still in the hands of the SAPS while investigations are continuing.

S/Supt Motsoela said the suspects are assisting the police with investigations.

In another incident police recovered five cattle of a Mosotho man in Qwa-Qwa, still in the Free State Province.

These cattle were reported stolen in Tšehlanyane in Leribe at the beginning of this month.

Police under their sting operation “Zero Tolerance to Stock Theft” launched their investigations that led to the discovery of the cattle.

The Leribe District police commanding officer Senior Superintendent Samuel Thamae said they were able to recover the animals with the help of the community who tipped them off.

S/Supt Thamae said they stormed Qwa-Qwa with their counterparts in South Africa to identify the stolen animals.

After convincing the SAPS that the cattle belonged to the concerned farmer, they were released to him.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator (DA) Serame Linake says they have been battling cross border stock theft for years.

He says Basotho in Lesotho would go to South Africa to steal the animals that they sell back to South Africa in Vanderbijlparkl after getting fraudulent documents.

Linake says these animals, cattle and sheep, are sold at an auction in Vanderbijlpark.

He says the South Africans on the other hand sometimes also cross the border into Lesotho to steal the animals.

To fight this theft, they have formed good relations with the SAPS, chiefs and councillors.

Linake says when animals are stolen from South Africa into Lesotho, their counterparts simply inform them on this side so that they could waylay them.

“Stolen animals are strictly sold in Vanderbijlpark in South Africa,” he says.

He says in his district animals are not sold in the butcheries like is the case in Maseru and other lowlands districts.

Linake says they are now struggling to control theft that takes place between the northern district and Qwa-Qwa because the perpetrators are Basotho who have now migrated to South Africa.

He says these perpetrators have lived in Lesotho and know all the corridors that they could use to come and steal animals in Lesotho and go back to South Africa.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says stock-theft is a grave problem in the country.

He says they have formed a special team that is going to reinforce the team that is already dealing with stock-theft in the country.

When there is an alarm that some animals have been stolen, this new team is informed so that it can lend a helping hand.

S/Supt Mopeli says the theft happens within the country’s borders and between Lesotho and South Africa.

S/Supt Mopeli says they are managing to deal with the theft because they arrest the perpetrators and bring them before the courts of law.

He says the public should alert the police when they see animals being stolen so that they can be saved from the hands of thieves.

Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola says they have registered big successes in curbing cross-border theft especially after having a post in Mokota-Koti in Maputsoe.

He says they usually hold frequent patrols at the borders to fight this crime.

“We also hold frequent crossings with the South African army to share information regarding cross-border theft,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Lt Col Lekola says they sometimes use air patrols as another way to fight stock-theft.

He says they usually erect camps along the borders so that they can stop animals coming out of Lesotho or vice-versa.

“Last year we had a successful collaboration with South African soldiers where we patrolled the borders from Leribe to Mafeteng. The South African army was on their side and we were also on our side,” he says.

He says they were working together with the police and they reaped good results.

Lt Col Lekola says some herd boys report the theft of livestock long after first trying to track the animals themselves.

He says this gives the cattle rustlers a chance to hide.

He advised the farmers not to erect cattle posts near the borders because they are stolen easily.

“When the South Africans enter Lesotho borders to trace their stolen animals, they make the first encounter with the animals at the cattle posts and drive them away,” Lt Col Lekola says.

He appealled to farmers to work collaboratively with their herders to pay them their dues.

He says some farmers do not pay their herders and those herders usually bounce back to steal the animals in revenge.

“They enter the cattle posts easily because the dogs know them,” Lt Col Lekola says.

Because Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, stock-theft takes place easily between the two countries especially in the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The porous borders make it easy for the movement of animals to take place between the two countries.

And the theft between these countries has been happening since time immemorial.

The cross-border menace continues to take place despite patrols that are organised by the security agencies from both countries.

A Transnational History of Stock Theft on the Lesotho–South Africa Border, Nineteenth Century to 1994 Journal states that stock theft has long been a problem along the Lesotho–South Africa border.

It says from Moshoeshoe I’s cattle-raiding in the nineteenth century through to the start of the democratic era in Lesotho (1993) and South Africa (1994), the idea that stock theft is both prevalent and an international problem has been generally accepted by all.

According to Farmer’s Weekly livestock theft has a much more detrimental effect on the economy than previously thought, and is becoming more violent.

It says organised livestock theft feeds into other more serious types of transnational organised crimes such as drug, weapons and human trafficking.

And ultimately this results in the creation of illicit financial flows.

Challenges to safety included no fencing along large stretches, and the lack of a suitable roads to enable South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to conduct border patrols effectively, Farmer’s Weekly says.

In a piece published in November on the International Security Studies (ISS) website, ISS Today, stock theft was on the rise in South Africa, with 29 672 cases recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the 2018/2019 financial year.

This represented an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year.

The ISS said the problem is exacerbated by porous and poorly secured borders, lack of capacity to monitor the border, and mountainous terrain that is difficult to police.

“Such challenges create opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock, drugs and, at times, firearms across the border.”

The ISS said the transnational livestock theft affects farmers revenue and adds to consumer costs.

It says thousands of animals are stolen and sold through the black market.

And this hurts the economy and goes even further to impact consumers, as these animals could have provided meat.

Majara Molupe

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Matekane to launch microchip project



MAPUTSOE – PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will this Sunday launch a new microchip project designed to combat the rampant stock-theft in Lesotho.

The launch will be held in Peka in Leribe.

Speaking at a rally for his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in Maputsoe last weekend, Matekane said the government is weary of the rampant stock-theft that impoverished rural farmers in Lesotho for decades.

“When your livestock leaves your kraals your phones will alert you and your families,” Matekane said amid loud cheers.

He asked the people to go to Peka in great numbers to witness the launch and learn from the livestock microchipping experts how the project will work to combat stock-theft in the villages.

The project was first spearheaded by Thomas Thabane when he was the Home Affairs Minister in 2003.

That year, 120 rams were implanted with the microchip identification system in Masianokeng.

The rams belonged to a company called Mahloenyeng Trading Company (Pty) Ltd.

The then police boss, Jonas Malewa, had microchipped 64 horses at the Police Training College (PTC) a year earlier in a pilot project.

The Home Affairs Ministry had contracted a company called Primate Identity Technology ran by a Jewish man, Yehuda Danziger, to carry out the pilot project.

Danziger was also tasked with observing any side-effects the animals could have after the implantation of the microchip.

The government introduced the microchip implantation technology after realising that stock thieves would easily erase the branding and tattoo marks with red hot metal and acid.

The stock thieves also cut off stolen animals’ ears if they bore the owner’s identification marks.

Microchips are tiny electronic devices, about the size of a grain of rice, which could be stored in a capsule and implanted near the animal’s tail to make it easy to identify and trace lost or stolen animals.

The project however never picked up with successive government not showing any political will to carry it through.

Things are now set to change with Matekane launching the project this Sunday.

Tšepang Mapola & Alice Samuel

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