LCS boss faces arrest
THE Commissioner of Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), Thabang Mothepu, could be hauled before the courts to face criminal charges after disregarding a summons to appear before the ombudsman.
Commissioner Mothepu allegedly snubbed a summons to appear before the ombudsman, Advocate Leshele Thoahlane KC, on Thursday and Friday.
He is alleged to have ignored the summons on the grounds that he was busy and this has not gone down well with Adv Thoahlane who is conducting hearings to ascertain the criteria that was used by the latter in promoting 50 LCS officers in May this year.
Adv Thoahlane initiated the hearings in May 2018 in the aftermath of complaints by some LCS officers that they had been overlooked for promotions on political grounds.
Commissioner Mothepu’s no-show riled Adv Thoahlane who then told the Sunday Express that “it is a crime to snub the Ombudsman’s call”.
“He (Commissioner Mothepu) has therefore committed a criminal offence (by snubbing the hearing) and should be charged. He will be reported to the police. Our preparations to have him charged are at advanced stage,” Adv Thoahlane said on Friday.
Efforts to obtain comment from Commissioner Mothepu were unsuccessful as his mobile phone rang unanswered over the weekend.
However, Adv Thoahlane expressed disappointment that his efforts to bring the LCS promotions saga to finality had been frustrated by the non-appearance of Commissioner Mothepu who told the former through a phone call that he was “busy”.
“We were supposed to meet with Commissioner Mothepu on 12 and 13 July for questioning but he didn’t show up. He said he was supposed to go somewhere,” Adv Thoahlane said, adding that the legal procedure required that anyone who had been summoned to appear before the ombudsman should submit a written apology in advance to explain why they would not be able to appear.
Upon receiving the written apology, the ombudsman is then required to apply his mind to the issue before responding.
Adv Thoahlane said he personally advised Commissioner Mothepu to follow that legal procure, adding that in his case the apology letter should be written by the principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service, Lebohang Mochaba.
Adv Thoahlane said his advice to Commissioner Mothepu fell on deaf ears the apology was never delivered to him.
“He (Commissioner Mothepu) just did not show up. The proceedings did not take place. He kept quiet and even the principal secretary did not say anything and she was probably not informed. He purposely ignored my advice just like that. He did not see it necessary to do so,” Adv Thoahlane said, adding “but it is a crime to snub the ombudsman’s call”.
The commissioner and the ombudsman have had a frosty relationship since the latter was first summoned to a hearing in May this year to explain the criteria he used to effect promotions in the LCS.
On his first appearance before the ombudsman in May, Commissioner Mothepu was accompanied by heavily armed bodyguards who insisted on carrying their guns into the hall where the hearings were being conducted.
The bodyguards’ actions were supposedly based on the commissioner’s “fears” that he could be attacked by the junior LCS officers who had complained to the ombudsman that they had been overlooked for promotions.
During same appearance, Commissioner Mothepu also torched a storm with his apparent hostility towards the ombudsman. He refused to answer some of the ombudsman’s questions and was accused of being rude to Adv Thoahlane throughout the proceedings. The police had to be called in to bring his bodyguards to order.
He told the Ombudsman that, “I know that I have been saying this and I might be forced to say it another ten times. I have been called to answer for the promotions and now you come from your office and you impose your laws on me”.
“Listen here so that we may be on the same wavelength. If the office of the Ombudsman has issues pertaining to this matter… I used the Lesotho Correctional Service Act of 2016 and my boss’s directive to effect those promotions.
“I am telling you that your laws are yours and have nothing to do with those that govern the LCS. Yours is to make recommendations that can be effected elsewhere and not within the LCS so do not make your issues mine. So, whether you are right or wrong it is none of my business,” Commissioner Mothepu told the Ombudsman’s panel.
Commissioner Mothepu’s behaviour was subsequently condemned by the government. The government spokesperson, Nthakeng Selinyane, said in a statement the government had noted with dismay the behaviour of the LCS boss and the manner in which he had belittled the Ombudsman.
“The government apologises to the embarrassed public who were enraged by such behaviour.”
Mr Selinyane further said that the incident was a throw-back to the “dark days” when soldiers used to enter courts of law heavily armed and “walking behind their chained colleagues after they were kidnapped and assaulted just because they were following rule of law”.
This was in reference to 2015 incidents when soldiers who were accused of mutiny against former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, were detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
“The government will not sit back and watch when the country is taken back to times of cannibalism. The government will not stand the shame and embarrassment of state institutions that turn the country into a laughing stock of other countries.
“Everyone should abide by the law,” Mr Selinyane said.