Caswell Tlali and Tefo Tefo
MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla misled Parliament last week when he boldly denied there were cases of brutality and persecution of the public by the police.
However an independent inquiry by this newspaper shows that the use of torture, at times resulting in murder, is rife within the police force contrary to Lehohla’s statements in Parliament last week.
“There are no police involved in such acts (of torture) in the LMPS,” Lehohla said.
Some of the complainants who sued the police between 2007 and 2011 won their cases, resulting in the commissioner of police being ordered to pay damages, an investigation by the Sunday Express has revealed.
Lehohla was responding to Lesotho Workers Party MP, Sello Maphalla’s question on whether police had received any reports of torture by officers.
Maphalla also wanted to know if there were instruments of torture in police stations. He wanted statistics from 2007 to date.
“Therefore, it is imperative that there cannot be claims which result from such acts as they have never been committed or reported; hence the government has never paid any amount in that respect,” said Lehohla, who doubles as the Home Affairs Minister, which supervises police work.
But information gathered last week by the Sunday Express, including from an internal police department responsible for handling complaints, indicates otherwise.
The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) on Friday confirmed that between 2007 and 2011 members of the public have reported over 30 cases for investigation against the police.
This paper’s investigations revealed 40 cases against the police were
filed in the High Court between 2007 and 2008, while a local lawyer said he had reported more than 20 cases in which the police allegedly used torture.
More significantly, the PCA said all claims filed between 2007 and 2008 were legitimate and investigations had shown police were in the wrong.
Teboho Leseela, the PCA spokesperson however, said his department had no enforcement powers to discipline police officers responsible for the torture and abuse of suspects.
He said eight cases involving murder, attempted murder, assault and attempted rape committed by police officers were reported to his department by the public in 2007.
In 2008, the authority received four complaints from the public, at least one of them being a murder claim.
In 2009 the public lodged 10 complaints against the police at the PCA and six of them have since been completed, Leseela said.
Of the 12 cases investigated by the PCA last year, five have been completed.
The PCA is investigating four cases reported since January this year, Leseela said.
The Sunday Express has independently nailed over 40 cases of police abuses filed at the High Court between 2007 and 2008.
In November last year, High Court judge Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane awarded M250 000 in damages to Morie Motiane.
Motiane had claimed damages after the police forcibly took him to an abandoned place they called Flight One Hotel and suffocated him with a tyre tube in an attempt to force him into confessing to a crime.
Motiane told the High Court that he saw a box containing torture equipment brought from the Mabote Police Station to a waiting car that took him to the so-called Flight One Hotel.
He was never charged with any crime.
This year, two bus drivers, Ngaka Makepe and Ts’eliso Sekaleli won M200 000 each in damages against the police after they were tortured to induce them to confess that they murdered one Monts’inyane in 2008.
The Pitso Ground Police allegedly took the two bus drivers to Lifofaneng Police Station and By-pass and tortured them at night.
No charge was ever laid against them.
Dozens other cases against the police are pending at the courts.
In one of the cases, ’Malereko Sebatane, a Mohale’s Hoek woman who worked in Qacha’s Nek is suing the police for M65 000 after two police officers, Rets’elisitsoe Ranoha and one Fusi, allegedly assaulted her while she was being interviewed in connection with theft in May 2007.
Sebatane told the High Court in papers that she was heavily pregnant when the male police officers assaulted her until she menstruated.
In another case, Tankiso Mokhosoa is claiming M445 000 from the police for alleged assaults and insults made to him and his wife by the police in June 2007.
Mokhosoa told the High Court in his affidavit that he was suspected of breaking into a police officer’s house.
The police officer, identified as Inspector Mafatle allegedly ordered Mokhosoa to report himself to a police station where upon arrival he was allegedly assaulted, insulted and had a gun pointed at him by Mafatle.
He says his wife also received similar treatment from Mafatle.
Another complainant is Mokheseng Leeto who is claiming half-a-million maloti from the police for alleged assault he suffered together with his wife at the hands of the police.
He is suing for assault, damage to property and unlawful arrest.
Leeto told the High Court in papers that the Marakabei police arrived at his home in Ha-Abele at midnight and without saying a word started shooting at his house before firing a teargas canister in 2007.
The police allegedly arrested him and his wife, assaulted them and burnt the property that was in the house.
The couple was never charged.
A local lawyer, Letuka Molati, told the Sunday Express that he is handling over 20 cases of people suing the police for torture since 2007.
“In my opinion, there is nobody who is getting sued more than the commissioner of police,” Molati said.
“Some of my clients tell me that the police brag about the government having budgeted for the misdeeds,” he said.
Confronted with this information, Lehohla on Friday shifted the blame to the police, which he said provided the information he used in parliament.
Asked if he did not suspect that he was being fed wrong information given constant press reports on police brutality, Lehohla said:
“If there is anybody with facts contrary to my answers in parliament let him come forward and say so,” he said, conceding that misleading parliament was a serious offence.
“I, as a minister have a responsibility to ensure that parliament is not misled.”
In parliament, Lehohla had even gone to the extent of citing international conventions that Lesotho had signed as he defended the police from torture allegations.
“The Kingdom of Lesotho is a member of the international community and has signed international conventions and protocols that are meant to protect human rights,” he told parliament.