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Judge cuts Molibeli down to size

  • livid Justice Mokoko slams him for bringing judiciary into disrepute,
  • grovelling police boss escapes jail by a whisker by apologising, promising to reinstate fired recruits

Mohalenyane Phakela/Moorosi Tsiane

POLICE Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, has escaped doing jail time for contempt of court by a whisker.

The embattled police boss this weekend walked out of the High Court a relieved man after an irate Judge Tšeliso Mokoko decided against sending him to the slammers. Instead, the fire-spitting judge accepted Commissioner Molibeli’s grovelling apology for failing to comply with the judge’s recent judgement compelling him to reinstate 12 recruits who were dismissed from the Police Training College (PTC) in May 2022. Besides apologising, the police chief also said he had already begun processes to reinstate the recruits in line with the June judgement he had initially ignored.

Justice Mokoko had on 29 June 2022 ruled that Commissioner Molibeli’s decision to expel the recruits was “irregular and wrongful and therefore, null and void”.

The 12 are Moliehi Dlamini, Mokhethi Damane, Lebaka Matiea, Kopano Ramokhoro, Ngaka Lenka, Mojela Gugushe, Thabang Maime, Lechesa Lepheane, Poloko Sekhohola, Refiloe Kheleli, Moorosi Kalane and Sebongile Cekwane.

They were however, denied entry into PTC last week. Their lawyer, Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, subsequently rushed back to court to file a contempt of court application against Commissioner Molibeli.

The police then applied for a stay of execution of Justice Mokoko’s judgment, pending an appeal against the reinstatement order.

His application for a stay of execution was on Wednesday dismissed by Justice Mokoko.

The judge had then ordered Commissioner Molibeli to appear on Friday to argue why he should not sent to prison for failing to comply with the 29 June ruling to reinstate the recruits.

The police boss did not do himself any favours by failing to show up in court when proceedings began in the morning.

His lawyer, one Adv Sehloho appeared before the judge alongside the applicants’ lawyer, Adv Setlojoane.

This prompted a seething Justice Mokoko to issue a withering attack on the absent commissioner.

Judge Mokoko noted that Commissioner Molibeli had also ignored an order not to fire the recruits by another judge, ‘Maliepollo Makhetha.

Justice Makhetha delivered her judgement on 24 May 2022 but the commissioner still fired them a day later.

With this mind, a livid Justice Mokoko on Friday said he was convinced that Commissioner Molibeli had no respect for the courts and had brought the judiciary into disrepute through his conduct.

“On 24 May, my sister (Justice) Makhetha issued an order which, according to your (Sehloho’s) papers, was served on the commissioner on 27 May 2022 and up to today has not been complied with the order,” Justice Makhetha thundered.

“This court made another order on 29 June 2022 which you have also not complied with and today you say you will only comply with it at your own convenience. You are telling me that you will either comply today or by Monday. One problem is your attitude.

“The PTC is under the control of the commissioner, so he cannot say he needed anyone’s permission to comply with the order. This court holds a strong view that the conduct of the commissioner has a total disrespect of the court. It has brought the administration of justice into disrepute,” Justice Mokoko added before ordering Adv Sehloho to bring Commissioner Molibeli to court that same afternoon.

The court adjourned at about 12:30pm to enable Adv Sehloho to fetch Commissioner Molibeli. Two hours later, the lawyer returned with the police boss in tow, enabling proceedings to resume at 2:30pm.

Taking to the stand, Commissioner Molibeli immediately apologised to the court, saying he had misunderstood Justice Makhetha’s order since he received it after he had already sent the 12 recruits packing.

He then said he was already in the process of rectifying his mistakes.

To that end, he said he had already issued letters for the reinstatement of the recruits. He said he had done this before coming to court that day.

“It is difficult to make a sound response because I am not in possession of any document relating to the issue at hand,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

“However, it does not mean we do not regard or obey court directives. My Lord, we were faced with logistical challenges while preparing for the recruits to be absorbed back into PTC. I may have come here not fully understanding the wrongdoing, but now I fully understand the court’s concern.

“Firstly, I would like to apologise to the court and add that we are currently in the process of complying with its orders. As things stand, we have already served their lawyer (Setlojoane) with reinstatement letters,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

His grovelling appeared to work its magic on Justice Mokoko.

Now pacified, the judge accepted Commissioner Molibeli’s apology but ordered him to reappear in court tomorrow to give an update on his compliance with the order to reinstate the recruits.

“This matter is postponed to 11 July (tomorrow) and the commissioner is to appear personally on that day to indicate the extent of compliance of this court’s orders,” Justice Mokoko said.

Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa was the second respondent in the application.

This is second time lucky for Commissioner Molibeli.

Back in October 2021, the police boss was spared jail for contempt by Justice Molefi Makara.

Justice Makara threw out a contempt of court application which had been filed against him by the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA).

The police union had petitioned the court to find him guilty of contempt of court for his failure to reverse the 2018 police promotions of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Beleme Lebajoa, and 170 other police officers.

The judge had nullified the promotions in June 2021.

However, the same judge spared the police boss’ blushes by ruling that although Commissioner Molibeli was wrong for failing to reverse the promotions, he ought to be given the benefit of doubt in the matter because he had been ill-advised by the force’s legal department.

The judge blasted the police’s legal department for being unprofessional and expressed doubts about its integrity.

But judging with his latest brush with the law over the 12 recruits’ issue, it is evident that Commissioner Molibeli learnt nothing from his previous experience.

At the time of their dismissal in May, police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the 12 recruits were sent home after they were found to be “medically unfit to begin training while the others were dismissed due to their unbecoming behaviour”.

Police sources had said four women were found to be pregnant, while the male recruits were suspected of involvement with the notorious juvenile criminal gang known as Manomoro.

Manomoro is a gang of hardened youthful ex-convicts who include Famo musicians in their ranks. They can be identified by their tattoos. The gang terrorised residents in various parts of Maseru and its environs last year. They were accused of theft, burglaries, armed robberies, rape and assault among other crimes.

Commissioner Molibeli is already in the frying pan. This after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro last month wrote to him demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be dismissed on various charges ranging from his failure to rein in police brutality to making unilateral decisions.

He has filed two applications in the Constitutional Court and High Court to stop his dismissal. His failure to comply with court orders vindicates Dr Majoro’s claims that the police boss has become a law unto himself. It remains to be seen if he will prevail against the premier in the courts of law.

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