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Beleaguered minister resigns

Pascalinah Kabi

THE under-fire Minister of Police and Public Security, ‘Mampho Mokhele, has resigned from her post with effect from 7 May this year.

Ms Mokhele, who is a member of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, also resigned from her position as a senator and she will soon be taking up a post as Counselor in the Lesotho embassy in Ireland.

She becomes the fourth minister to resign since the formation of the four party coalition government in June 2017. Others who have quit their posts are Sentje Lebona (former Defence and National Security minister), ‘Mamotsie Motsie (Forestry and Land Reclamation) and Rethabile Marumo (former Deputy Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation).

Ms Mokhele and the Press Attaché in the Prime Minister’s Office, Thabo Thakalekoala, confirmed Ms Mokhele’s resignation which has been seen in some quarters as a response to threats by Famo musician and ABC activist, Mosotho Chakela’s threats to reveal damaging secrets about her and the First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane.

A bristling Chakela, whose real name is Rethabile Mokete, recently went on radio and threatened to spill the beans on Ms Thabane and Ms Mokhele, saying, “I want to reprimand ‘Mampho Mokhele. I want to seriously reprimand the First Lady” Chakela said.

“I want to tell one woman why she is a minister. Why are you sitting there as the minister,” Chakela said in reference to Ms Mokhele.

The resignation which came hot on the heels of Mr Chakela’s threats to expose her alleged dirty secrets fueled speculation that her resignation could have been to stave off the potentially damaging disclosures.

Apart from Mr Chakela’s threats, Ms Mokhele has been in the eye of the storm over persistent allegations of acts of police brutality that have been committed under her watch.

However, Mr Thakalekoala on Friday told the Sunday Express that Ms Mokhele had resigned at the request of the government which had already resolved to redeploy her to Ireland.

“Lesotho is currently on the journey towards the implementation of comprehensive national reforms that include reforms of the security sector. Due to Mme Mokhele’s vast experience and expertise in the security sector as a former police officer who worked hard to avert the Famo-related killings in the past, the government sat her down and asked that she resigns to take up a new post in Ireland.

“The government fully appreciates that the comprehensive national reforms that include the security sector, need a massive boost from the international community and therefore there is an urgent need to deploy someone with high expertise on the security sector to a foreign mission.

“Ireland had an embassy here in Lesotho and the government feels it needs the support of Ireland and other countries within the European sub-continent on the security sector reforms.

“So the government applied itself on the matter and released that Mme Mokhele was the right person for the job because of her knowledge of the security issues that the country has gone through. She was therefore asked to resign from her ministerial and senate positions to go and work in Lesotho’s embassy in Ireland as a counselor,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

He said her primary focus would be sourcing technical and other assistance from Ireland and other European countries for Lesotho on security sector reforms.

He added that the government decided not to engage someone outside the government structures as the recruitment processes would take long and therefore it opted for Ms Mokhele whose vast experience and expertise on security issues was an established fact.

“And therefore Mme Mokhele gladly accepted that new post and she will be going to Ireland in the near future. There is nothing else which influenced her decision to resign and she has parted ways with government on good terms,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

On her part, Ms Mokhele said that she resigned after Dr Thabane informed her of the government’s decision to redeploy her to Ireland to deputise Lesotho’s ambassador to Ireland, S’khulumi Ntsoale.

“The prime minister sat me down and informed me that the government had taken a decision to give me a new post in Ireland. I had to resign to take up the new offer because there was no way I could take the new position while still a Minister of Police and senator,” Ms Mokhele said.

The Minister of Defence and National Security, Tefo Mapesela, has since been appointed as the Acting Minister of Police and Public Safety.

Ms Mokhele leaves at a time when the police have been under fire for alleged acts of brutality committed under her watch.

In February this year, the United States ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, warned that Lesotho risked losing out on the multi-million-dollar second compact under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) due to concerns about “unacceptable” corruption and police brutality against citizens.

Ms Gonzales also warned of a “delay or derailment (of the second compact) if we do not continue purposefully on the path of reforms and political stability”.

In addition, a recent African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) report seen by this publication expresses concern over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho and calls on the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

“The government should incorporate the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in all its actions as well as in the legal, policy and institutional reforms which would be initiated as a result of the ongoing national dialogue,” the ACHPR report states.

Early last year, Ms Mokhele torched a storm when she became the first minister to publicly admit that the police used illegal methods including torture to extract confessions from suspects.

Ms Mokhele, who served as a police officer for 37 years, made the revelation at a ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment donated by the Algerian government.

She said she hoped the donation would go a long way in removing the need for torture as the police could now use it to determine whether or not a suspect had been involved in the commission of a crime.

“We, as the police, are often forced to use violence to get information out of people because at times we would be sure that the suspect committed the crime but due to lack of tangible evidence we have to use force,” Ms Mokhele said.

Two months ago, Dr Thabane condemned police brutality and ordered Ms Mokhele to furnish him with a report of how the ministry has dealt with cases of police officers suspected of human rights violations.

Foreign Affairs and International Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi recently said that the government was not deaf to the public outcry over the alleged police brutality and it would soon conduct inquests into the alleged civilian deaths and thereafter deal with the “rogue elements within our police service”.

“This (torturing of suspects) is unacceptable and we are going to deal with such officers. We will not allow them to bring the name of the government into disrepute,” Mr Makgothi said.


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