PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has repeated his call to the Minister of Police ‘Mampho Mokhele, and the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, to take disciplinary measures against corrupt police officers hell-bent on tarnishing the image of his government.
Dr Thabane vowed that he will not rest until this four-party coalition government weeds out corrupt officers from the police service.
Addressing thousands of government supporters at the Marakabei-Monontša road sod turning ceremony in Makhunoane in Butha-Buthe on Thursday, Dr Thabane said he was worried by reports of the escalation of cases of police brutality and that there was an urgent need to bring all corrupt officers to book.
“I am extremely worried by the reports that some of the police officers are determined to tarnish the good image of police officers in this country,” Dr Thabane said.
“There have been several criminal reports that involve police officers who are out to bring this country into disrepute. Ladies and gentleman, I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour where people who have been trusted to take care of the citizens are the ones who are oppressing and brutally killing them. And I will not rest until they have all been put to book because these (the rogue police officers) are not even in the majority.”
Dr Thabane said he had instructed Commissioner Molibeli and Ms Mokhele to take strong disciplinary measures against the rogue police officers.
“I have already ordered the Minister of Police and the Police Commissioner to take stern measures against such oppressors and their cohorts. And I will not rest until we take out all these thorns within the disciplined forces.”
Dr Thabane urged police officers to always remember that their primary responsibilities were to assist and protect the nation.
“Let me take this opportunity to remind the police officers that their responsibility is to be the helpers and not the oppressors, they must be friends and not the enemies of this nation. When a Mosotho sees a police officer, they must feel relieved and know that they are safe.”
Dr Thabane also thanked those police officers who had remained loyal to the nation and diligently executed their mandate.
“Let me also thank the police officers who have always stayed loyal to their oath of being the helpers and the friends of this nation. Fortunately, these are still there in great numbers,” Dr Thabane said.
This is not the first time that Dr Thabane has called for action against errant police officers. Last October, he ordered Commissioner Molibeli and Ms Mokhele to “do the right thing” by investigating the deaths of suspects in police custody.
He said this in the wake of a pledge by the government in the national reforms declaration that it would investigate deaths of suspects at the hands of the police. In the declaration signed in October with the opposition, the government undertook to “investigate and report to the Coalition of Opposition Parties in due course” the circumstances of the deaths of a list of people who died in police custody.
Among the victims listed by the opposition in their presentation to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator, Justice Dikgang Moseneke is Thelingoane ’Mota of Koro-Koro. Mr ‘Mota was chased by the police on their way from fetching the body of their colleague from a mortuary and was later found dead in 2017.
Kamohelo ’Matli of Butha-Buthe was called in for questioning by Butha-Buthe police in 2017 over a fracas in connection with a flash drive with a taxi driver and he reportedly died in custody.
Mosiuoa Raleababa (71) of Maputsoe is alleged to have also died at the hands of police after he was taken in for questioning over a break-in at the shop where he worked as a watchman early last year.
Lesia Thekethe of Mechachane is said to have been shot by the police who had come to intervene between villagers and stock-theft suspects theft early this year.
Rets’epile Moeletsi (33) died in police custody last September after he was taken in by the Quthing police on suspicion that he was involved in the stabbing to death of an elderly couple in the Quthing district.
And in his October statement, Dr Thabane expressed the government’s commitment to investigating all the allegations made against the police.
“It is the commitment of this government to investigate all reports and allegations made regarding these sad happenings and to see to it that those implicated to take full responsibility for their actions.
“I am looking to the minister (of Police) and the commissioner to do the right thing and ensure that expert investigations are done openly, thoroughly and expeditiously to allow justice to take its course,” Dr Thabane said.
He said it was too early for the country to witness more gruesome deaths as Lesotho is still smarting from a phase where it was normal for some security officers to wantonly kill citizens during the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led regime.
“I come before you with a heavy heart when our people are going through a phase of darkness of unexplainable deaths at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and up hold the law.
“This is happening at quite an early stage in our journey after we have shortly left Pharaoh’s household (the previous regime) and left behind the culture of persecuting one another where some of our security agencies had turned themselves into wolves that fed themselves on this country’s taxpayers,” Dr Thabane said last October.