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Letsoepa pleads with Thabane


. . . top cop appeals for early retirement in the face of dismissal

Pascalinah Kabi

EMBATTLED Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa has pleaded with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for an early retirement to prevent a looming dismissal and the consequent loss of benefits.

The Sunday Express has learnt that Dr Thabane and Commissioner Letsoepa are holding confidential talks in light of the top cop’s 90-day forced leave and a “show cause” letter from the government for why he should not be dismissed which was due this past week.

Sources privy to the unfolding developments have told this paper Commissioner Letsoepa subsequently wrote to the premier requesting for an early retirement on Thursday.

The sources said the top cop was desperate to avoid the “blemish” of a dismissal on his record and the prospect of losing some of his terminal benefits.

Ntate Thabane received a letter from Ntate Letsoepa on Thursday,” said one source.

“In the letter, Ntate Letsoepa simply asked for an early retirement and discussions between the two have already begun,” the source said, adding the matter was confidential.

Dr Thabane’s Press Attaché, Thabo Thakalekoala, confirmed that Commissioner Letsoepa had requested for an early retirement.

“Yes it is true that Ntate Letsoepa has written to the honourable prime minister asking for an early retirement. It is also true that they are in confidential talks and I cannot divulge the details to the media,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

Contacted yesterday, Commissioner Letsoepa said he would call this reporter after 30 minutes and when contacted an hour later, he said: “I am still held up.”

Commissioner Letsoepa was appointed by the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led regime on 3 November 2015 to replace Khothatso Tšooana, who has since been appointed principal secretary in the Ministry of Police and Public Safety.

However, Dr Thabane sent the top cop on a 90-day involuntary leave last month, a few weeks after being inaugurated.

Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention formed a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho after the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections resulted in a hung parliament.

The new government has since wrung changes in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) with Deputy Commissioner of Police  Holomo Molibeli being appointed acting police commissioner earlier this month. DCP Molibeli has been touted as a shoo-in to take over from Commissioner Letsoepa.

The shake up in the police has also seen the recalling of 21 LMPS members who were sacked for various reasons by Commissioner Letsoepa.

On 18 July 2017, Commissioner Letsoepa was given seven days by Acting Government Secretary Emmanuel Lesoma to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed.

In the letter, the top cop is accused of a litany of charges related to misconduct and “and/or criminal activities”.

Among Commissioner Letsoepa’s alleged transgressions is failing to probe the 30 August 2014 killing of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko and the 25 June 2015 fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was killed on 30 August 2014 killing while on duty at Police Headquarters during an LDF raid on Maseru police stations.

Dr Thabane, who had fled to South Africa on the eve of the raid, described the operation as an attempted coup. However, the LDF said it was a special operation to foil a LMPS plan to give civilians firearms for use during a Lesotho Congress for Democracy protest march that was scheduled for 1 September 2014.

Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, with the military claiming he was resisting arrest for allegedly plotting to overthrow the army command.

However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family has accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

The top cop is also accused of failing to administer the LMPS forensic laboratory, violation of procurement procedures and not investigating the disappearance of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.

PC Khetheng was stationed in Mokhotlong and last seen being arrested by his colleagues at a feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016. This is according to papers filed on 18 July 2016 by his father in an ongoing High Court case to compel his bosses to release him dead or alive.

Mr Lesoma further accuses Commissioner Letsoepa of violating procurement procedures by sending LMPS fire brigade motor vehicles to South Africa for repairs, allegedly without following proper procurement channels.

The acting GS also accuses Commissioner Letsoepa of insubordination and rebellion, saying he went out of his way to try to deny National University of Lesotho a protest permit last October.

Mr Lesoma also lays the charge of instigating and facilitating civilian torture on Commissioner Letsoepa, saying he assembled teams comprising of LDF and LMPS members, “wherein civilians were subjected to torture and other forms of degrading and inhumane treatment”.

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