Metsing, Molibeli at each other’s throats
A WAR of words has erupted between former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli over the instability in the police force.
At the heart of dispute is Mr Metsing’s assertion that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) leaders are right in demanding Commissioner Molibeli’s ouster for his alleged bias and incompetence in handling police grievances.
The opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader urged Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane to grant LEPOSA a permit for its intended march on Friday to petition Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to fire Commissioner Molibeli.
He also said LEPOSA should be treated as equals in any negotiations with the police command to address the infighting in the force.
This has however, not gone down well with Commissioner Molibeli who accused him of grandstanding and politicising issues in the police force.
The police boss said Mr Metsing should stay out of their issues and allow the police command the space to deal with police brutality and other concerns.
He even aimed a cheeky jibe at the politician, saying he should not confuse the police issues with those of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) of South Africa. Mr Metsing was an active NUM member when he worked in the South African mines many years ago.
It all started on Wednesday when Mr Metsing told a local radio station that LEPOSA should be allowed to march to petition Dr Majoro over their grievances. They were initially meant to have marched last week but resolved to postpone to this Friday after being denied permission by Ms Senauoane. They were denied permission on the grounds that protest marches contravened public health recognitions aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
It remains to be seen if they will be given permission to march on Friday.
Speaking on radio, Mr Metsing said, “Covid-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon and we should not put our lives on hold because of it”.
“Our plea to the minister (Senauoane) is for her to soften her heart and allow LEPOSA to exercise its right to hold a protest march. They are not marching to entertain themselves. They are raising pertinent issues.
“LEPOSA complains of discriminatory practices that some police officers are suspended while others remain at work despite their pending criminal charges. They complain of police brutality and this is a serious matter in America as well.
“We have been complaining about this issue for a long time now and LEPOSA is now standing on the side of the oppressed. No one thought they would fight police brutality because we thought this had now become a norm in the police service. But they are now condemning and distancing themselves from the police brutality. We must protect and ensure that LEPOSA is assisted on this issue.
“Politicians have complained of this issue of police brutality to SADC over the years. Now, the people’s servants (LEPOSA) are saying they stand with the oppressed. Government must welcome this move. There is no other time like now for the government to deal with this issue unless it is happy that people are being killed.
“This is no longer just a police matter but it is now a national issue. We are hopeful that the honourable prime minister will deal with this matter.”
He also said LEPOSA leaders must be treated as equals in any talks to resolve the police problems.
“In a democratic country, workers’ unions must be allowed to function. Intimidating the LEPOSA leadership has become a norm. An employer and employee are equal at the level of negotiations but my suspicion is that the police management view a police officer who leads LEPOSA as their junior.
“They treat them as per their police ranks and expect them to see them as seniors yet there is a level at which they must see them as equals during bargaining negotiations,” Mr Metsing said.
Commissioner Molibeli immediately hit back on a different radio station by accusing the LCD leader of seeking to politicise the police service.
“My sincere plea is for the depoliticisation of the police service. We have been quiet for far too long while closely monitoring this issue (politicisation of the force) with the intelligence department. We know that there are individuals behind these police officers.
“This is not the first time for police officers to be dismissed or suspended. It happened way back in 2011. Back then they were accused of attending Ntate Metsing’s rally at Molapo High School in Leribe. We wouldn’t want to remind him of this but he must stay away from the police service.
“Police officers have committed crimes and dealing with those issues should not be misconstrued to mean we are oppressing them. Ntate Metsing suggests that the police boss and LEPOSA leaders are equals. Whom am I leading then?
“This is not NUM. Members of NUM may all be equal but we are talking about a police association here not a union.
“This is not a mine operation; this is not a trade union. We are talking about police service here and we will not allow that (equality between LEPOSA and the police command) to happen here. As long as I remain the commissioner of police, it will not happen.
“We will not allow anyone to sow divisions in the police force. I am standing firm and saying this will not happen. Basotho want police brutality dealt with. As police management, we are doing our job to deal with that matter. If people (LEPOSA) are saying they have 4600 members it means it is their members who are killing people”.
Commissioner Molibeli attributed the police instability to the politicisation of the force and said Mr Metsing should leave them to correct the “past wrongs”.
“He must stay away from the police service. As police officers, we don’t want to engage in party politics because they are the root source of instability. They (Pakalitha Mosisili-led former seven party coalition) were the first to admit that police officers were hired on political grounds.
“Instead of allowing us to correct their wrongs and depoliticise the police service, they are forcing their way into the service. They must stay far away from the police,” Commissioner Molibeli said.