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ABC, DC divided over Molibeli

…as Mokhothu reportedly guns for police chief’s dismissal. 

Pascalinah Kabi

THE ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Democratic Congress (DC) parties are said to be divided over the fate of Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

According to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) national executive, DC leader and Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu has demanded his ouster while the ABC wants him to stay put.

Addressing the media on Thursday, LEPOSA national treasurer, Lance Sergeant Mathebe Motseki, said they learnt of the two main governing parties’ divisions over Commissioner Molibeli when they were summoned to give evidence to the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led inter-ministerial inquiry into the instability with the police force.

Lance Sergeant Motseki said at that meeting, Law and Justice Minister Mahao told them that he holds weekly meetings with Mr Mokhothu in their capacities as ABC deputy leader and DC leader respectively.

She alleged that Prof Mahao had told them that Mr Mokhothu had used his weekly meetings with him to demand the ouster of Commissioner Molibeli.

The ABC and DC are the main governing parties in a coalition that is also supported by several smaller parties. The ABC’s Thetsane legislator, Moeketsi Majoro, heads the coalition which was formed in May this year after the two parties agreed to form a new government to replace the previous administration led by ABC leader, Thomas Thabane.

Thus far, the two parties have enjoyed a seemingly solid relationship. The only threats to the stability of the coalition have come from within the fractious ABC whose members remain split between two main camps backing Mr Thabane against Prof Mahao.

If LEPOSA’s claims are anything to go by, then the two parties hold different views on certain issues such as Commissioner Molibeli’s fate. However, such differences are not necessarily a threat to the stability of the coalition.

LEPOSA has been fighting Commissioner Molibeli for over a year and earlier this year, the militant police union even petitioned Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to fire him over a litany of allegations including bias and incompetence in the handling of police grievances.

Since LEPOSA and Mr Mokhothu held similar views about Commissioner Molibeli, Prof Mahao interpreted this to mean that the police union was merely driving the DC’s political agenda of seeking his ouster, Lance Sergeant Motseki said.

The union alleges that since taking charge in August 2017, Commissioner Molibeli has unprocedurally promoted his close allies like Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete and Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa.

Worried by the instability caused by the Molibeli-LEPOSA fight, Dr Majoro appointed an inter-ministerial committee to probe the police force in August this year.

The committee comprised of Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, fellow ministers Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security), Kemiso Mosenene (Prime Minister’s Office) and Prof Mahao who was its chairperson.

It was appointed on 6 August 2020 and it began its work four days later by summoning Commissioner Molibeli to give evidence on the year-long infighting between him and LEPOSA.

Although the committee completed its work and submitted its report to Dr Majoro in September, its findings were only made public on Monday.

Addressing the media on the committee’s report, Dr Majoro said among other things, the committee had found no valid grounds for the dismissal of Commissioner Molibeli.

“We have interrogated the issue of whether the Commissioner was still fit and proper for office,” Dr Majoro said.

“We sat down with him and discussed these accusations (by LEPOSA) and he defended himself. He said that he should not be blamed for police brutality as he did not have direct control over individual officers’ behaviour.

“The ministerial committee did not present to me any recommendation, evidence or proof that at this stage the Police Commissioner is no longer fit and proper for the office,” Dr Majoro said.

Prof Mahao concurred with Dr Majoro, saying Commissioner Molibeli could not be fired without any valid legal reasons for doing so.

Police and Public Safety Minister, ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, also weighed in on the issue saying Commissioner Molibeli was not to blame for the presence of rogue police officers who subjected civilians to acts of brutality.

In a blow to LEPOSA, the committee said the union should only operate as an association articulating welfare concerns of its members and not as a fully-fledged trade union which challenged the authority of the commissioner and the police command.

But LEPOSA is not at all amused by the committee’s findings and it accuses the government and in particular, Prof Majoro of ignoring its concerns and siding with Commissioner Molibeli.

It was against the background of its disgruntlement over the inter-ministerial committee’s findings that LEPOSA addressed the media in Maseru on Thursday.

“I was one of the LEPOSA representatives who appeared before the inter-ministerial committee,” Lance Sergeant Motseki said.

“We have decided to tell you what we said to the committee and what questions Prof Mahao posed to us. You would think that his questions would appear but he omitted them in his executive report.

“He told us that the committee was established to investigate instability in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). He asked us if we genuinely believed that there was instability in the LMPS. I explained to him that the LMPS was stable but the only problem was mismanagement by the police command.”

Lance Sergeant Motseki said they even gave the committee documents to back their statements but were shocked to learn that the evidence had been totally ignored by the committee.

She despite presenting their evidence, Prof Mahao appeared more interested in pursuing his own theory that police instability stemmed from LEPOSA’s alleged alliance with the DC to oust Commissioner Molibeli.

Ntate Mahao put it to us that the truth of the matter is that the LMPS is not being mismanaged as we (LEPOSA) alleged but that there were politics at play. I told him that we were not aware that this (police instability) was a political issue.

Ntate Mahao then explained that he is a politician. He said he is a deputy leader of the ABC and he has weekly meetings with Democratic Congress leader Ntate Mathibeli Mokhothu.

“He said the DC leader is always telling him to fire Ntate Molibeli. He said we draw our strength from Ntate Mokhothu because he is the one who wants Ntate Molibeli fired. He said LEPOSA speaks the same language with him (Mokhothu). I denied this allegation,” Lance Sergeant Motseki said.

She also alleged that Prof Mahao had accused LEPOSA of instigating the deployment of the army in Maseru by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in April this year.

Mr Thabane deployed the army and ordered the arrest of senior government officials who he accused of destabilising his government. At the time, government sources alleged that this was directed at Commissioner Molibeli and two of his close subordinates, DCP Mokete and ACP Lebajoa who had fallen out with the then premier after they named him as a prime suspect in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo. Mr Thabane also alleged that Commissioner Molibeli and the police command was working with the Mahao faction to topple his government.

Commenting on the issue, Lance Sergeant Motseki said: “He (Mahao) said to us, ‘so you wanted to have the commissioner arrested?’

“He said it was clear that LEPOSA was behind the deployment of soldiers, working hand in hand with army commander (Lt-Gen Mojalefa Letsoela) and DCP (Sera) Makharilele to remove Ntate Commissioner from office. We were shocked by this statement,” Lance Sergeant Motseki said.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Mokhothu refused to say whether the two parties were divided over Commissioner Molibeli.

“The issues of security and governance are not dealt with on the basis of mere allegations,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Asked if the DC was working with LEPOSA to have Commissioner Molibeli fired, Mr Mokhothu said: “No, the DC is not working with any security agency to influence firing of bosses of those agencies”.

On his part, Prof Mahao declined to comment, saying he was attending a funeral.

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