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Deputy police commissioner Lebajoa demoted

 

’Marafaele Mohloboli

DEPUTY Commissioner of Police (DPC) Beleme Lebajoa has been demoted.

He has returned to his previous post as Senior Assistant Police Commissioner. The demotion is with immediate effect, the Sunday Express has learnt.

No reason has been given for his demotion.

According to authoritative police and government sources, DCP Lebajoa’s demotion was announced during a meeting of senior police officers at the Police Training College (PTC) on Thursday.

DCP Lebajoa was not in the meeting due to an undisclosed illness.

“DCP Lebajoa was not in the meeting when the announcement was made by Commissioner (Holomo) Molibeli,” said a source who attended the meeting.

“It is not clear if this Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s decision as he was in South Africa on the day. We are yet to establish who was behind the decision,” said the source.

Police and Public Safety Minister Sekola Lepota was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment on the issue.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli had said the minister was best placed to say if at all DCP Lebajoa had been demoted.

Sources said relations between DCP Lebajoa and Commissioner Molibeli had been sour of late, something which the former would neither deny nor confirm when asked by this publication yesterday.

“I am not aware of the latest changes but I am fully aware that there was a meeting on Thursday which I didn’t attend on account of ill health. As for the relations between me and the Compol, I would rather not touch on that,” said DCP Lebajoa, who was at one point tipped to take over as police boss.

It is not clear whether the demotion is linked to Judge Molefi Makara’s June 2021 judgement nullifying DCP Lebajoa and 170 other police officers’ promotions in April 2020.

Initially, DCP Lebajoa was in 2018 promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). He had been an Inspector. He skipped the ranks of Senior Inspector, Superintendent and Senior Superintendent. His 2018 promotion was challenged by the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA). While the matter was pending before the now retired Justice Semapo Peete, he was again promoted to Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) in 2020.

In June 2021, Commissioner Molibeli again promoted him to DCP and this prompted LEPOSA to go back to court to challenge his and other promotions.

On 17 June 2021, Justice Makara nullified the promotions on grounds that Commissioner Molibeli had effected them in violation of the laws that govern the police service. These are the Police Service Act of 1998 and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (Administration) Regulations of 2003.

The net effect of the ruling was that the affected police officers had to go back to the ranks they held before the promotions. They also had to pay back the extra monies they had earned as a result of the illegal promotions.

However, Commissioner Molibeli failed to reverse the promotions. He and the officers also filed an appeal against Justice Makara’s decision.

In their appeal, they had argued that LEPOSA does not have the legal authority to challenge the decisions of the police command.

They also argued that in passing judgement, Justice Makara had not entertained the merits of the case but only dealt with the preliminary issues which included points of law such as that of LEPOSA lacking jurisdiction to challenge the said promotions.

While waiting the hearing of their appeal in the apex court, they also petitioned Justice Makara to rescind his June 2021 judgements and stay the execution of the judgements pending their appeal.

Justice Makara heard their applications on 3 November 2021 and dismissed them on 17 February 2022.

In his February 2022 judgement, Justice Makara ruled that the rescission application was “ridiculous” and an abuse of the court.

“It should suffice for the court to state that it finds no legal justification to grant the application for staying the execution of all the judgments which forms the subject matter of the relieves sought for in the application.

“Just for over-emphasis sake, to ask for the rescission of the judgment and for the staying of its execution is ridiculous.  This is attributable to the fact that the applicants (171 police officers) have not, by any scintilla, filed the answering affidavit in which they refute or qualify the accusatory averments advanced by the respondents (LEPOSA) that the promotions were illegally and unlawfully made to the extent of violating their constitutional rights as citizens.  This demonstrates the entrenched commitment by the applicants to frustrate the course of justice in the matter and, thus, abusing the judicial process. In the premises, the application for rescission and staying of the execution of the judgments pending the appeal, is refused.   The respondent is awarded the costs of the litigation,” Justice Makara said at the time.

He also said that he did not think there were any chances that the police officers’ appeal to the apex court would succeed.

Over week ago on 13 May, the Court of Appeal referred the matter back to the High Court to be heard afresh by a different judge.

Reading out the summary of the judgement, Court of Appeal President Kananelo Mosito said, “It is ordered that the appeal succeeds and the judgements and orders of the High Court are set aside and the matter is remitted to High Court for hearing before another judge.

“The parties shall bear their own costs. The judge to whom these matters are allocated to shall give directions in relation to the filling of any outstanding pleadings. No orders of appeal court is made the parties shall cover their own costs.”

 

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