DCP Makharilele breaks silence
- denies rebelling against Commissioner Molibeli
- relieves “scary experience” when armed officers stormed his office in stand-off with Molibeli
DEPUTY Police Commissioner (DCP), Sera Makharilele, says his “principled nature” prevented a bloodbath at the police headquarters earlier this year when armed junior officers loyal to Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli tried to forcibly evict him from office after he had been appointed acting commissioner by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
DCP Makharilele had moved into the police commissioner’s office soon after the acting appointment. But Commissioner Molibeli would have none of it after the High Court outlawed his suspension.
He immediately arranged for DCP Makharilele to be evicted from his office. A potentially bloody situation was only averted by the prompt intervention of army commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela who rushed to police headquarters to diffuse the standoff and mediate between the two camps.
DCP Makharilele had thus far refrained from commenting on that incident. But he broke his silence this week at a time some sources within the divided police force claim he is one of those facing arrest for allegedly mutinying against the command of Commissioner Molibeli.
DCP Makharilele was appointed acting commissioner in early January 2020 during Mr Thabane’s first attempt to fire Commissioner Molibeli for alleged incompetence including the failure to address the rampant acts of police brutality against ordinary citizens.
But his appointment was immediately resisted by Commissioner Molibeli who rushed to court and won a 7 January 2020 High Court order interdicting Mr Thabane from ousting him.
Armed with the court order, Commissioner Molibeli is said to have returned to the police headquarters with his phalanx of bodyguards to eject DCP Makharile from his office.
At the time, police sources told the Lesotho Times that Commissioner Molibeli’s bodyguards had teamed up with heavily armed details from the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) to forcibly eject DCP Makharilele from the commissioner’s office.
However, other armed police officers who supported DCP Makharilele did not take his ejection lying down and they immediately took up strategic positions around the building in preparation for a fight.
Things could have escalated into a deadly shootout had it not been Lt-Gen Letsoela’s timely arrival and mediation between the two sides.
DCP Makharilele eventually agreed to make way for Commissioner Molibeli. But the police boss’s bitter fight with Mr Thabane had just begun. The ex-premier would again attempt to fire Commissioner Molibeli and replace him with DCP Makharilele a few months later in April 2020.
DCP Makharilele refused to take up the post this time round. He told then Police and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse that it would be contemptuous to do so in light of the court order barring the suspension of Commissioner Molibeli.
DCP Makharilele relieved the stand-off in an interview with the Sunday Express this week, saying a bloody outcome had only been averted because of his “principled nature”.
He also rejected suggestions that he was engineering a rebellion against Commissioner Molibeli. Speaking for the first time since the January and April 2020 incidents, DCP Makharilele said recent reports that he was using the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) to destabilise the police force were simply not true.
He said he was aware of rumours that he had been earmarked for arrest for inciting LEPOSA and junior police officers into what Commissioner Molibeli has described as “an open rebellion against the police management”.
Commissioner Molibeli this week said policing and national security could be severely compromised if LEPOSA leaders, who have called for his sacking, are not brought to book.
LEPOSA is a trade union body representing all police officers. It has petitioned Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to suspend Commissioner Molibeli to facilitate investigations into the latter’s alleged criminal misconduct, maladministration and abuse of power.
The police boss has hit back by initiating moves to fire LEPOSA members whom he has branded as “rogue” police officers out to derail the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) from doing its work. He has also accused some of his subordinates of “engaging in an open rebellion against the police management”. Sources say Commissioner Molibeli believes DCP Makharilele is the key player among these subordinates.
Commissioner Molibeli has also trained his guns on LEPOSA national treasurer, Lance Sergeant ‘Mathebe Motseki. He on Monday slapped her with a letter demanding she “show cause” why she should not be dismissed for her recent statements which “tarnished” the image of the police command.
Amid the swirling talk of his imminent arrest for conniving with LEPOSA, DCP Makharilele denied any wrongdoing, saying he had no intertest in mutinying against Commissioner Molibeli’s command.
He said if he had any ambitions of taking over, he could have done so back in January when he was presented with the opportunity by Mr Thabane.
“Oh no. I have no interest (in taking over the LMPS command),” DCP Makharilele told the Sunday Express.
“I would have taken over when the opportunity presented itself for me to be the commissioner but I declined the appointment.
“What would have stopped me from clinging onto that seat when I was appointed as commissioner? What could have stopped me from deploying armed officers at the entrance of police headquarters with instructions to deny some people entry?
“Nothing stopped me from doing all that but being the principled person that I am, I did not take up the appointment because I understood that administrative issues must be dealt with in terms of the law,” DCP Makharilele said.
Asked how he felt when the armed junior officers confronted him during the January incident, DCP Makharilele said he had felt severely threatened and was very afraid.
“I am a human being and I felt threatened. I was surprised and at the same time scared. Those people wanted to force their way into the office but the bodyguards stopped them. We had to involve the army commander who came in to resolve those issues.”
DCP Makharilele said it was wrong for the junior officers to have stormed the office, demanding that he leaves. He said he had not appointed himself acting commissioner and anyone who was unhappy with his appointment should have challenged the appointment in court.
“Only the court can declare an appointment to be irregular. Even when I was appointed again in April, I could have stayed in office because only the court can nullify my appointment. I could have gone to court the same way the commissioner (Molibeli) went to court to challenge his removal but I did not go there because I did not want that position.
“Some things are not worth it because at the end of the day politicians do these things because of their own political interests which compromise our own lives.”
He said he remained unfazed by rumours that he was one of those targeted for arrest on mutiny allegations.
He denied ever plotting against Commissioner Molibeli and called on the police boss to engage LEPOSA to iron issues to ensure stability in the force. His stance on negotiating with LEPOSA differs sharply with that of Commissioner Molibeli who has declared war on the police union accusing it of rebelling against his command.
“I am told I am going to be arrested and charged with munity because I am using LEPOSA (to fight the police commissioner).
“I do not know but we will see what happens next,” he said of the rumours of his impending arrest.
“My understanding is that if ever there are any such issues, a management meeting is held and the commissioner addresses us to see how best we can address the issues. The manner in which this matter is being approached is questionable.
“I don’t know how (I have used LEPOSA to fight my battles). It is wrong for anyone to suggest that I am hiding behind LEPOSA. I can fight my own battles.
“When I was first appointed (acting commissioner in January), some heavily armed officers came to my office, saying they were going to arrest me. Apparently, they were going to arrest me for accepting the appointment and that did not make sense to me. I opened a criminal case against them.
“If I really wanted that commissioner’s post, my case would have been investigated and taken to the office of the DPP. But because I am not interested, I have chosen peace over that case (of those who stormed his office).
“I have been quiet about that case because I am hopeful that we will achieve the stability that we yearn for within the LMPS. It is a serious case but I am choosing the stability of the LMPS over my personal interests. But they keep poking me. They are pushing me,” he said without naming those who were “pushing” and “poking” him.
He said the stand-off between the police command and LEPOSA was uncalled for and the two parties should engage in dialogue to resolve their differences.
“In my opinion, this is an unnecessary fight. LEPOSA also needs to humble itself and come to the discussion table.
“Honestly speaking, there is no way we can run this organisation without discussing issues with LEPOSA. We have to meet them, hear them out and try as much as possible to resolve their concerns for the betterment of the police service,” DCP Makharilele said.
He said that he had been attacked by his colleagues for allegedly failing to rein in LEPOSA leaders for attacking the police command at the funeral of one Lance Sergeant Thabang Molelekoa earlier this month in Mafeteng.
At that funeral, LEPOSA national treasurer Lance Sergeant Motseki allegedly accused the police authorities of transferring some police officers as punishment for opening a case against former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane for allegedly assaulting a Maseru man at State House in January 2019.
Lance Sergeant Motseki is also alleged to have accused the police command of failing to arrest DCP Paseka Mokete after a female junior police officer accused him of sexual assault in April 2020. The case is now before the courts. Commissioner Molibeli has taken it upon himself to get rid of Lance Sergeant Motseki.
Commenting on the issue, DCP Makharilele said, “I did not want to involve myself in those issues because my understanding is that LEPOSA is an independent police union with its own administrative structures”.
“Its national executive committee (NEC) must discipline own members and if we strongly feel that they are not doing that, we can call its president for a meeting to raise our concerns.
“Having said that, they (LEPOSA) used the wrong platform to raise their issues. But we still need to address the issues they raised. I even told my boss (Commissioner Molibeli) that we need to address issues raised by LEPOSA.
“I am worried by the manner in which we are handling issues because at the end of day the management needs LEPOSA and LEPOSA needs stability within the force. We need to iron out our issues,” DCP Makharilele said.