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Molibeli fights back

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MASERU – POLICE boss Commissioner Holomo Molibeli has launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro for trying to push him into retirement.
Commissioner Molibeli said Majoro and his government were complicit in promoting the police brutality.

He said Majoro is trying to push him out because he suspended some police officers who were accused of torturing villagers in Thaba-Tseka and redeploying his deputy Beleme Lebajoa, the head of the Criminal Investigations Department.

Commissioner Molibeli makes the allegations in a High Court application in which he is seeking an order to block Majoro from advising the King to retire him. Majoro cited incompetence as the main reason for trying to push out the commissioner.

Commissioner Molibeli said the disciplinary action he took against officers who assaulted villagers last month is now costing him his job. He also said he is being punished for redeploying DCP Lebajoa from the CID to finance.
The prime minister’s allegations that he is incompetent, he said, is a smokescreen to hide his true intentions.

In his founding affidavit, Commissioner Molibeli said Police Minister Lepota Sekola gave him a tongue lashing when he suspended the six officers who tortured the villagers. He said Sekola wrote a letter instructing him to promptly reinstate the officers.

“I have given this matter consideration and decided to give you an instruction to reinstate these officers with immediate effect,” Sekola said in the letter.

Sekola wrote him a letter reminding him of his letter of July last year in which he instructed him to deploy DCP Lebajoa to head the Criminal Investigation Division. In the letter, he had also ordered Commissioner Molibeli to redeploy DCP Paseka Mokete from the criminal division to financial administration.

“My instruction has not changed,” Sekola said in his letter after Commissioner Molibeli redeployed the two top officers, swapping offices. Commissioner Molibeli told the court that he redeployed DCP Lebajoa because of his “failure to properly investigate criminal cases and gather sufficient relevant evidence, leading to discharge of accused persons, some in high profile cases”.

DCP Lebajoa is challenging the decision in the High Court. Commissioner Molibeli attached a memo in which he reasoned with Sekola that the Police Minister’s power is to appoint officers and not to allocate duties in the police service.

“Please be reminded the matter was discussed with you Honourable Minister and you had no problem with the arrangement,” Commissioner Molibeli said in the memo.

“Writing to you was a formality as you expressed no discontent.”

“You actually informed me that you understood that, that was entirely upon my office,” he said.

Commissioner Molibeli said the Police Service Act is clear on who should appoint or deploy officers.

“The Police Authority appoints, while the Commissioner of Police deploys. These are two separate powers which must be cautiously exercised.”

He said Majoro’s decision to sack him was triggered “not by genuine concerns of the effectiveness or efficiency” of the police but by his redeployment of DCP Lebajoa.

“The (Prime Minister’s action) therefore amounts to an improper and mala fide exercise of public power to attain the purpose for which the Police Service Act was not enacted to attain,” he said.

Commissioner Molibeli said since becoming prime minister in 2020, Majoro “never moved an inch to raise any concern in any meeting we have had with him about the issues he now makes case about”.
Responding to Majoro’s accusation that under his leadership the police failed in their mandatory and constitutional duty to fight crime, Commissioner Molibeli said the police’s lack of capacity is “state-sponsored and architected”.

He said each year the Prime Minister and Minister of Police meet with the commissioner and promise to increase state funding and budgeting for the police.

“But each year, the LMPS budget keeps dwindling, thus affecting the LMPS’s capacity to discharge its constitutional mandate,” he said.

“There is generally no political will to take the LMPS from this incapacity pit.”

“It is to this spiralling dungeon where every Commissioner of Police is appointed to and it is from it where he can be dismissed at will on the pretext granted by section 5(3) of the Police Service Act,” he said.

Commissioner Molibeli said a commissioner’s longevity or brevity at the helm of the police “entirely depends on his being on good terms with the Prime Minister of the day”.

He said a commissioner “can be removed the following day if he is no longer in good books” with the prime minister.

Staff Reporter

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BNP wins rescission order against SG

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MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) this week successfully applied for a rescission of a court order that would have seen the party’s secretary general, Thato Lethobane, being awarded M126 000. Lethobane’s case will now be heard again at the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) on Monday.

The party raised technical legal reasons that prompted the cancellation of the award that ordered the party to pay Lethobane for the time he did not receive his salary since his suspension.

Lethobane was suspended in October last year after he was accused of embezzling party funds and he asked the DDPR to order the party to pay him from October last year to April this year.

The BNP deputy secretary, Moeketsi Hanyane, who is holding forte at the party’s administration, told thepost last night that “Lethobane’s glow was short-lived and was wrong in the first place”.

“The DDPR award against us will not see the light of day because Lethobane got suspended for two years after we discovered that he stole the party’s funds,” Hanyane said.

“A thief is a thief and we cannot allow him to claim monies he is unworthy of,” he said.

“We have opened a case against him at the police and he cannot come around and say we owe him.”

Hanyane said Lethobane was suspended for two years so that after that period, if he still loved wanted to be part of the party, he could come and participate in its affairs again.

“The suspension was not meant to put him aside for a while to allow investigations but it is a punishment for what we found on him,” he said.

Hanyane said Lethobane is not owed anything for that period because he is officially out of office as a result of the punishment he got from the party not because he was suspended pending investigations.

He said the BNP did not defend itself at the DDPR and the arbitrator ruled in favour of Lethobane in default.

“We did not go to the DDPR on technical issues and we have since applied for and acquired a rescission of the award,” he said.

Lethobane declined to get into the details of his case with the BNP but only confirmed that he had won an award at the DDPR.

“After I realised how much they owed me I decided to go to labour and successfully claimed my payment,” he said.

“The case judgment was done in my favor, even though I will not discuss that issue much.”

The party pays its secretary general M18 000 per month.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Killer police investigated

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MASERU – PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has set up a special team to investigate police officers who killed a student during a protest at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last week. Majoro’s decision comes as pressure mounts on the government and the police to identify the officers who pulled the trigger and bring them to justice.

The police killed Kopano Makutoane and seriously injured six more students on Thursday last week during a strike over their stipends that were not paid in full. Makutoane was shot with multiple live bullets in the face.

Police Minister Lepota Sekola, Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli and Development Planning Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, confirmed that a team has been set up but were reluctant to give further details. thepost has been told that the police have zeroed in on 12 police officers who were part of the team that responded to the protest.

The police management is said to be close to suspending some of the officers and opening a murder case against them. Their names cannot, however, be revealed because they have not been officially identified and charged.

Majoro visited the Makutoane family last week and promised justice for their slain son. The strike was triggered by the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS)’s delay to pay students their monthly stipends.

Those who received the allowances only got M450 instead of their usual monthly stipend of M1 100. Several eyewitnesses and victims told thepost that the police conducted raids targeting NUL students even after the protesters had dispersed. Sello Khechane, a second-year student, said the police fired live ammunition at the protesters.

“We started fleeing the place and did not even realise that one of us was shot near the gate,” Khechane said.

One of the injured students said about 20 police officers knocked at her rented room when she was sleeping, dragged her out and beat her with sticks and truncheons.

“I was still wearing my gown and was not even part of the protest,” she said.

Another girl who had visited her brother was caught in the crossfire as police went on the rampage.

“I was watching a movie when I saw a mob of police approaching the door and asking all of us in the house to come out,” she said.

She said the police used sticks and kicked her.

“I tried to convince them that I am not a student there, but they refused to listen,” she said.

The Social Development Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, said he immediately intervened when he was informed of the disagreement between the Students’ Representative Council and the NMDS management over the stipends.

“The school told us that there was a problem as students walked out of examination rooms.”

He also said the NMDS told him that there is a law that says students should not get full amounts when their school days are cut short during a month.

“We made a decision that students should get full amounts,” he said.

He said the students were notified that they would get full amounts but continued with the strike.

“I am sorry that one student lost his life.” The incident has sparked an outcry from different political parties.

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader and former Vice-Chancellor of the NUL, Professor Nqosa Mahao, condemned the killing saying it was the third time police have used force during protests and ended up taking lives.

“We are very saddened and embarrassed by this act,” Professor Mahao said.

He said they condemn the police actions that led to the death of the student, saying the behaviour by police shows that Basotho’s lives are not safe. He recalled that in 2009 the police shot a student during protests.

“They shot Tumelo Mohlomi in 2017, she was also shot by the police,” Professor Mahao said, adding that the police officers involved in the incident were not charged.

He blamed the conflicts on the NMDS management “that does not do its job correctly”. The Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, met NUL students near the campus on Tuesday.

“We condemn that behaviour, it was uncalled for, it was not necessary,” Matekane said.

He said the police’s job is to protect and save people, not to kill people as they did or do.

“When promised sponsorship, we are expecting you to get them as promised,” he said.

“It does not make sense that someone can carry a gun and shoot an unarmed student.”

He also pledged to provide the students with transport to Quthing where Makutoane will be laid to rest.

“We will make sure that those who were affected get the necessary counselling and also help them,” he said.

The NUL management also condemned the killing and injuring of other students. In a statement, the university said it was aggrieved by “the plan by the NMDS to prorate the student’s allowance for June 2022”. The university pleaded with the students to remain calm, adding that it has started visiting all the affected families.

Staff Reporter

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Mafeteng magistrates’ court records burnt

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MASERU – A fire gutted the records section of the Mafeteng Magistrate’s Court last week. The police suspect it was an act of arson. Thousands of crucial case records were destroyed.

This could affect hundreds of cases that were pending in the court. Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the incident, saying investigations have started but no arrests have been made.

“But our preliminary investigations show that the court was intentionally set on fire,” S/Supt Mopeli said.

“Important court documents have been set alight together with some chairs and a table.”

A source close to the case told thepost that a container of petrol was found outside a broken window. The guard was not at work when the incident happened.

In 2010 computers containing information on cars registered in Maseru and Leribe were burnt in a fire that police suspected was deliberately started to destroy records and cover up corruption.

The Integrated Financial Management System computers, National Transport Information System server, computers, and a printer were destroyed.

The incident happened as the police were investigating a syndicate that was illegally registering stolen cars.

In 2019 a fire at the Ministry of Health’s head office destroyed computers and records.

Although ministry officials said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault, suspicions of foul play lingered on.

Majara Molupe

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