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 Legislators attack police bosses

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

EMOTIONS ran high at a recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session when the commissioner of police, Holomo Molibeli, exchanged words with parliamentary officers and legislators who accused the police authorities of tarnishing the image of the force.

Commissioner Molibeli reacted angrily to parliamentary chief whip Likopo Mahase’s assertions that the conduct of the police bosses including its failure to obey court orders and properly carry out policing duties had soiled the force’s image to the extent that the public no longer had faith and respect for them.

Mr Mahase said the reputation of the police had been severely dented to the extent that ordinary people now had the audacity to attack police officers on the streets.

Mr Mahase cited several examples including a recent incident where a taxi driver was involved in a public fight with a police officer and another incident when a police officer failed to arrest a gunman who shot a person but ran to seek shelter at the police station.

The first example cited by Mr Mahase was in reference to a widely-publicised video which showed a taxi driver fighting on the streets with a man who was clad in the police force uniform.

In the video, the two men wrestle each other to the ground until they are separated by two other men- one dressed in a police uniform and the other in civilian attire.

The second example cited by Mr Mahase was in reference to a recent incident in St Monica in Leribe where a police officer failed to arrest a gunman who had shot at another person. Instead of effecting an arrest the police officer allegedly ran to seek shelter at the local police station.

Mr Mahase suggested that such incidents which had tarnished the image of the police service were the product of the police bosses’ failure to ensure fair treatment for their subordinates and give due consideration to their grievances.

His remarks followed a complaint by some police officers that their bosses have repeatedly failed to honour a 2012 court judgement ordering that their salaries be reviewed to match those of their colleagues who held the same qualifications.

A representative of the disgruntled police officers, Thabang Siyoko, told the PAC that they had to petition the courts after their failed negotiations with the then commissioner, Kizito Mhlakaza.

Part of the 2012 court order states that “On the 21st day of May 2012 before His Lordship Magistrate Majara, this honourable court…orders that the respondents are ordered to regularise or standardise the salaries of applicants (the aggrieved police officers) with those of their colleagues serving in the same technical departments of police who attended technical vocational schools in Lesotho and did the same curriculum”.

“The respondents are ordered and directed to regularise and standardise salaries of applicants with those of their colleagues who attended short term courses and did the same curriculum in the technical offices of the police services,” the court order further states.

Following Mr Siyoko’s submission, Mr Mahase tore into the police authorities, saying, “It would be amiss of us if we did not advise His Majesty’s police service”.

“We should not fool around with the country’s affairs. If we were to parade all the policemen and women here we would hear awful stories about your administration. I lament slackness in the police service. You see a 4+1 boy (taxi driver) fighting a police officer. Where has the integrity of the police service gone,” Mr Mahase asked.

Commissioner Molibeli did not take kindly to the criticism and roundly condemned Mr Mahase for what he described as unsubstantiated allegations against the police force.

“Parliament is shaping us by calling us here. However, we should not be beaten with our hands tight. We should be allowed to respond. We do not know how to respond to allegations. Now we hear stories about a 4+1 boy or man, we do not know what the honourable is Chief Whip is talking about. We are just surprised by statements that police officers would tell awful stories if they to be paraded here. We don’t know what he is referring to,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

Immediately after Commissioner Molibeli’s submission, Mr Mochoboroane leapt to Mr Mahase’s defence saying that the latter was merely emphasising the fact that the reluctance of the police authorities to comply with the court orders regarding issues affecting their subordinates had only served to demoralising their juniors.

“You might call the fight between the 4+1 driver and a police officer an allegation. The real issue is that you demoralise police officers. Can argue that your failure to comply with court orders and the alleged discriminations is not demoralising the junior police officers.

“Our position is that you should comply with the court orders. There are clear signs of discrimination (in the police service). One day a group of police officers is treated in a certain way, the next day another group with the same qualifications is treated differently,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

He added: “We want to understand the problem with this institution of the His Majesty (which has caused it to fail) to comply with the court orders. We want to know who received the court orders and decided not to comply.  Our worry is that this results in government incurring costs for the failure to comply because it is the government, not individuals that has to pay up.”

Mr Mochoboroane subsequently gave the police authorities 14 days to sort out the junior police officers’ complaints and thereafter to report to the PAC.

It has been a torrid two weeks for the police whose senior officers including Commissioner Molibeli have been appearing before the PAC to answer to various allegations of anomalies and improprieties that have been raised with respect to the police service’s discharge of its duties over the years.

Last week a senior police officer, Lance Sergeant ‘Mathebe Motseki, told the PAC that she was victimised by her superiors including the former Commissioner Mhlakaza after she refused their orders for her to process payments for goods and services that were never delivered to the police force.

Lance Sergeant Motseki, who worked at the accounts office of the Police Training College (PTC) in Maseru, said hers became a living hell in the police office after she resisted the corrupt practices of her superiors.

The victimisation occurred between 2011 and 2015.

A fortnight ago it emerged that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service was stuck with uniforms worth millions at least M3, 4 million that cannot be used because their sizes are too small.

The uniforms were supplied by a company that was awarded the contract through a controversial selective tender marred by allegations of corruption and violation of procurement regulations.

 

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