LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing has come out guns blazing against Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli who he accuses of standing idly by while LCD members are subjected to acts of brutality by rogue police officers.
Mr Metsing said he had also received reports that Commissioner Molibeli had aligned himself to the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) in its messy power struggle with the ABC leader and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
He said Commissioner Molibeli had never liked him and this probably explained why the police boss had not acted or spoken out against the alleged victimisation of LCD followers.
The former Deputy Prime Minister blamed the messy power struggle between Dr Thabane and his ABC deputy leader Prof Mahao for the alleged police brutality against members of his party.
Mr Metsing said he had received reports that rogue police officers, who sympathise with the Mahao faction in its quest to topple Dr Thabane, were torturing LCD members allegedly because the opposition party supported Dr Thabane after his rivals filed a no confidence motion against him in parliament in June this year.
The Mahao camp’s no confidence motion has been endorsed by the opposition except for the LCD which says it will only support the ABC faction that will agree to its demands for government of national unity (GNU). There have been widespread allegations that Mr Metsing has inked a deal to save Dr Thabane’s government in exchange for an appointment to the deputy prime minister’s post alongside the incumbent Monyane Moleleki in a new coalition deal. However, the ABC and the LCD have denied inking such a deal and Mr Metsing has said his party is prepared to vote against the motion only if Dr Thabane agrees to a GNU.
Speaking at a recent rally in Bela-Bela in Leribe, Mr Metsing called on the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, to urgently investigate reports that rogue police officers were persecuting LCD followers as punishment for the opposition party’s alleged support for Dr Thabane against his ABC rivals.
“I appeal to the (country’s) leadership to deal with issues at hand and tread very carefully,” Mr Metsing said of the alleged persecution of LCD followers. We (in the LCD) are Basotho like everyone else and we also know how to get angry. It is also worth noting that not all police officers are happy with these persecutions.
“Government should make clear its position clear and talk to the Commissioner (Molibeli) to act against these rogue elements because if the government doesn’t, we will think that they are behind the persecutions because they are in power. They should advise the Commissioner to come clean and if he doesn’t come clean, he should also be held responsible for the police brutality. We can’t have a politicised police institution,” said an irate Mr Metsing.
“We all have political affiliations, so does the Commissioner of Police, but it is time that he starts investigating the real reason behind these arrests (of LCD supporters) or we will just believe the suspects’ (claims that they were being victimised as punishment for the LCD’s alleged support for Dr Thabane) and react,” Mr Metsing said.
“I know that Holomo Molibeli doesn’t like me personally and he made that very clear many times in the past while I was still Deputy Prime Minister to Ntate Thabane in the first coalition (from 2012 to 2015). But he needs to pronounce his stance in all of these (issues of the victimisation of LCD members).
“We have said it before that Commissioner Molibeli should go and today under his watch, people are being degraded and made to eat their own faeces while he is not doing anything about it. Those rogue police officers are still on duty.
“Ntate Holomo should explain himself. Holomo should convince us that he is not politically affiliated to the Likatana faction (Mahao faction) as we have been told.
“People have been dying under your watch and the question is why Commissioner Molibeli? Why hasn’t anything been done to bring these rogue elements to order? Why are people still dying under your watch? What business do police have engaging in politics?
“Ntate Holomo you have a responsibility to protect us all. I know that you don’t like me but let those police officers be answerable for their inhuman actions. Let us not be led into believing that the rogue police officers are fighting someone’s battles.”
He said the LCD would soon write to the SADC facilitator, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and international development partners to intervene and stop the alleged persecutions of LCD followers.
LCD Youth League president, Napo Mohapi, demanded Commissioner Molibeli’s resignation over the alleged police brutality.
“Commissioner Molibeli should resign with immediate effect and avoid any further embarrassment because he has clearly lost control of the police force. Ntate Molibeli has lost it completely. It is clear that he is no longer in charge and that there is someone else who has taken over and is giving out orders to his officers. He must just go home,” Mr Mohapi said.
Mr Metsing and fellow LCD officials’ complaints come against the events of the past two weeks where four LCD activists were allegedly tortured after being detained by the police over suspected criminal offences.
Opposition Democratic Congress (DC) spokesperson Serialong Qoo said his party was against all forms of torture and all rogue elements should be fired from the police force and held liable for their actions in the courts of law”.
In the latest reports of police brutality, rogue officers allegedly tortured 49 year-old Nqosa Mahao of Ha Mabote, Maseru and 31 year-old Kabelo Ratia of Nazareth in the Maseru district. Mr Mahao was abducted from his Mabote home on 18 July on suspicion of hiding firearms on behalf of some rogue soldiers.
While several people have come forward with accusations, it is the alleged torture of Mr Ratia which has grabbed the headlines.
In one of the worst accusations of sordid and sadistic behaviour leveled against the police, Mr Ratia alleges that he was tortured to the point where he soiled himself and was made to eat his own faeces.
Mr Ratia was arrested a fortnight ago for allegedly stealing M30 000 from a local businessman. During his detention Mr Ratia was allegedly subjected to horrendous torture and forced to implicate others including one Thabo May in the alleged theft of the businessman’s money. Mr May is still in hospital battling to recover from the injuries inflicted on him.
Compol Molibeli was not available for comment. However, Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said his boss was not considering resigning anytime soon.
“The commissioner did not send police officers to torture suspects and these officers risk an early exit (from the police force) due to their wrongdoing,” Supt Mopeli said.