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LCS must redeem soiled reputation

THE dramatic escape of ritual murder suspect Lehlohonolo Scott from prison on Sunday has exposed the shortcomings of the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).
It will be a long time before the LCS can redeem its reputation.
But the public pronouncements by the LCS’s senior assistant commissioner Matingoe Phamotse are not helping the situation.
Phamotse has insisted that Scott was not helped to escape from the “ultra security cell” at Maseru Central Prison.
He sticks to his position despite his admission that the prison authorities are still baffled as to how Scott could have escaped from the high security prison.
By maintaining that Scott was not assisted to escape, Phamotse comes across as a man who has already concluded that his officers are clean.
He seems to be more concerned with covering his back and that of his officers than finding the truth.
Yet there is really no need for him to take a defensive approach at the moment because investigations are still ongoing.
Phamotse must approach this investigation with an open mind.
It is quite possible that Scott could have received inside help.
Prison officers are human and humans are corruptible by nature.
Anything could have happened on that Sunday morning.
Phamotse must thus not commit himself to a concrete position until after a thorough internal inquiry on the matter. He should not rush to make a conclusion before prison authorities and the police have completed their investigation.
We say this because if the investigation discovers that Scott’s escape was an inside job Phamotse will have egg on his face and might have to resign in shame.
Phamotse must also not forget that Scott, the man he says was not assisted to break out of prison, has not spoken.
It is possible that when he is eventually caught Scott might implicate some of Phamotse’s officers.
So to avoid potential embarrassment in future Phamotse must retract his claim that Scott was not assisted.
He must just be honest enough to admit that at the moment prison authorities don’t know how Scott got out of jail.
Already the public is questioning the circumstances under which Scott is said to have escaped.
People don’t buy the official account given by Phamotse and the police on the escape.
Even worse for Phamotse are indications that Justice Minister Haae Phoofolo believes something is fishy about Scott’s escape.
Phoofolo told parliament on Friday that “the manner in which this suspect escaped from jail is suspicious”.
“We will do what we can to establish who could have aided him and take serious measures against them”.
Far from pointing figures at prison officers, Phoofolo is merely saying they must approach this investigation with an open mind. Phoofolo is aware that anything could have happened on Sunday.
Phamotse must adopt the same attitude lest he embarrasses himself and the whole LCS.
It’s already bad enough that the LCS has failed to keep a double murder suspect under lock and key.
The public is anxious for answers but Phamotse must not hurry to answer those questions if he doesn’t know the answers.

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