NEWLY-APPOINTED Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner, Thabang Mothepu, has called on district commissioners and all LCS staff to stay out of party politics and focus on implementing the LCS’s mandate, of protecting the lives and rights of inmates.
Commissioner Mothepu said it was embarrassing for correctional service officers to be fingered in the torture and other violations of the rights of prisoners.
He said this during a management indaba with district commissioners and senior LCS officers at the Correctional Training Centre (CTC) in Maseru on Friday.
The meeting was held an official interaction platform with the institution’s senior officials in the wake of hosted by Commissioner Mothepu’s confirmation as the substantive boss of the LCS on 31 May this year.
Commissioner Mothepu had been acting LCS Commissioner since ‘’Matefo Makhalemele was fired in the wake of the advent of the Thomas Thabane-led four party coalition government in June 2017.
Each commissioner outlined the challenges at LCS facilities in each district and some of the major issues included low salaries for LCS officers, dilapidated office and prison buildings, old and inadequate uniforms for LCS officers as well as shortages of food for inmates.
The Commissioners said although LCS facilities had self-help projects such as piggery, poultry, tailoring, these had been stopped due to funding challenges.
They expressed optimism that Commissioner Mothepu would modernise and upgrade the LCS to bring it in line with international standards.
In his response, Mr Mothepu pleaded with district commissioners to stay out of party politics and focus on protecting the rights of inmates.
Mr Mothepu said he was happy to realise that senior LCS officers were mostly by young people, adding he believed this would help foster a culture of professionalism, ethics and quality outcomes.
He implored the LCS staff to desist from unprofessional conduct including the torture and discrimination of inmates who they had a responsibility to look after and rehabilitate.
“If I find out that you are involved in abusing, legal action will be taken against you immediately.
“Senior officers should not to come to my office only to talk about promotions but also to share great ideas on enhancing rehabilitation programmes that will enable inmates after they have served their sentences,” Commissioner Mothepu said.
He said promotions would only be made on merit and not on political affiliations as has been alleged by some people.
Mr Mothepu warned officers to desist from unnecessary party politics. He also advised them to observe correct procedures and not jump the gun by by-passing his office to report issues of concern to the minister.
“I am the only one who is supposed to report to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. It is time is you stopped skipping my office to report to the minister.
“Trust and transparency will help us avoid corruption, nepotism and favouritism. Infighting and bad attitudes won’t build this institution to serve the interests of Basotho. This nation trust us to ensure service delivery not to engage in petty politics.
“I also plead with you colleagues to work in unity and love so that we can overcome the challenges facing our institution. Cheap gossip will not take us anywhere and I humbly ask that if you are not satisfied with my administration, feel free to approach me and we deal with the issues together. My office doors will always be open for you to discuss innovative and developmental administration issues,” Commissioner Mothepu said.