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Elite cops arrive for polls

 

Keiso Mohloboli

Members of the Romeo Troop - Zimbabwe's Support Unit
Members of the Romeo Troop – Zimbabwe’s Support Unit

An elite group of 475 police officers has been dispatched to Lesotho from Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Malawi to ensure peaceful elections next Saturday.

The last batch of the officers is expected to have arrived by end of day today, according to Southern African Development Community (SADC) Head of Mission in Lesotho, Fannie Phakola.

Mr Phakola yesterday told the Sunday Express that SADC was not taking any chances regarding the elections and security of the nation hence the arrival of this specialised unit.

Lesotho was forced to hold an election two years ahead of schedule due to persistent squabbling between the coalition government leaders, namely Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane.

According to Mr Phakola, due to the bad blood between the Lesotho Defence Force and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS)—and some politicians’ distrust of the army—SADC Facilitator in the Lesotho crisis, Cyril Ramaphosa, had recommended the deployment of the additional police.

Mr Ramaphosa’s proposal was given the nod by SADC’s Heads of State and Government Extraordinary Summit held in Pretoria on Friday although the process to send the additional police had already started, Mr Phakola added.

“Because some politicians don’t trust the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the SADC Facilitator (South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa)  and SADC Heads of State and Government decided that 475 police officers from member-states be deployed here specifically for the elections.

“The officers are expected to leave on 5 March 2015.”

According to Mr Phakola, SADC would be in charge of the security of the electoral process, including safeguarding warehouses where the ballot papers are being kept. The ballot papers arrived from Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday and are being kept at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) warehouse in Maseru.

Mr Phakola reiterated that LDF members would be confined to the barracks on the day of the election, save for six pilots who would be transporting ballot papers to remote polling stations.

“Because the police don’t have their own helicopters, we will be using six LDF helicopters and LDF pilots.

“However, there would be SADC police, SADC election observers, IEC officials and members of the LMPS in those helicopters,” Mr Phakola said.

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