Act on police killings
WE are barely two months into the new year but already, two police officers have been murdered. This is an acceptable situation which must stop forthwith. The government and the police themselves must come up with the concrete measures to stop what have now become rampant murders of police officers in our country. As we report elsewhere in this edition, Police Sergeant Kamohelo Thobi is the latest officer to be gunned down by unknown assailants.
Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the 45-year-old Sergeant Thobi’s corpse was found with a gunshot wound on the left side of the chest. His body was discovered by a passer-by on the roadside at Majakaneng, Butha-Buthe early Thursday morning. Last year, 10 police officers were murdered countrywide. Seven of these were murdered in just three months from July to September 2021. This year has begun in pretty much the same bloody fashion with the murder of Sergeant Thobi which followed hotly on the heels of the murder of another officer, Sergeant Mahase Khapu. The latter was gunned down three weeks ago by a 16-year-old teenager in Ha-Masupha, Metolong.
We have been very critical of police officers where they have been found on the wrong side of the law by subjecting civilians to all kinds of brutality. We have also been critical of them when they have failed to investigate and arrest bloodthirsty killers who have turned Lesotho into one of the leading homicidal nations on the globe.
But that does not excuse the rampant killings of police officers that we are now witnessing. The murders of our officers are crimes like any other murders. Just like any other murders, these cannot be condoned by any right-thinking individuals and they need to be stopped. Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli have both condemned the murders of police officers. Mr Lekota is on record saying said the killings should be treated as a declaration of war against the police force.
“The rate at which police are being killed is a clear signal to the police that war has been declared against them,” he said in an interview last year.
“Police officers are also human like everyone else and they mean a lot to their relatives. They are sons, husbands and fathers and don’t deserve to be killed.
“It is very obvious that this is now a war and we will have to sit down with other security agencies to see how best we can tackle this situation. We already have some plans to deal with the situation but we won’t publicise them lest we alert the criminals. But one thing for sure is that we are going to deal with this issue of the killings of police officers,” Minister Sekola added.
Commissioner Molibeli also condemned the killings. He called for tougher sentences including the imposition of the death penalty to deter would-be offenders.
“It is time for Lesotho to put up a stern face when it comes to dealing with these people who are robbing others of their lives. We have to enhance our campaigns against the criminals and work hand in hand with the public to stop these killings.
“Anyone with an illegal gun should be given a tough deterrent sentence. The courts should not be lenient and anyone found with an illegal firearm should know that they are doomed,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
He suggested that the country should follow the example of Botswana and actually execute criminals found guilty of capital crimes like murder.
“Our sentences are just too lenient and not deterrent enough. Our courts are just too lenient while people are being killed night and day.
“Too many police officers have been killed. These may seem like mere statistics to some but these are not just numbers to their relatives. It is sad to see the perpetrators being treated with kid gloves,” Commissioner Molibeli added.
For all Mr Sekola and Commissioner Molibeli’s tough talk, the killings are continuing without any clear government or police programme of action to stop them. We don’t agree with Commissioner Molibeli’s calls for the death penalty in the manner of Botswana. But supposing we did, you can only implement the death sentence when you have actually caught the culprit, investigated and presented a solid case to secure a conviction before a judge.
Our police officers seem incapable of investigating and arresting criminals. In the few instances they have actually arrested anyone, they have largely proved incapable of putting together a solid case. For the most part, they resort to torturing suspects to extract confessions. Any reasonable person in the street would tell you that confessions extracted through such coercive methods can never be admissible as evidence in any court of law.
When all has been said and done, the police killings are part of a wider problem of lawlessness and failure to respect the sanctity of human life that has infested our nation.
The government and the police need to come up with a clear programme of action to tackle the killings. Action and only action will address the issue. No amount of huffing and puffing without action can resolve the problem.