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Minister decries political polarisation at LCS

Tsitsi Matope

THE Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Mahali Phamotse, is working to root-out political polarisation in the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) which has since extended to the inmates.

According to Dr Phamotse, the situation is a huge cause for concern such that correctional service workers no longer trust one another and suspect foul play particularly when it comes to the securing of certain inmates.

There are fears that inmates belonging to political parties that some LCS employees also support could be allowed to escape from prison.

In fact, politics had become the order of the day in the country’s prisons, prompting the minister to act.

Dr Phamotse told the Sunday Express that she had since ordered all political activities in the correctional service facilities to stop and issued a stern warning to all divisive elements at the institution.

The minister emphasised it was unprofessional for LCS staff to engage in political activities at work and outside work. She said it was also unethical to rope inmates into political activities.

“I understand the situation took a nasty turn during the election campaign, with reports that political activists of certain political parties were targeting inmates in their campaigns. Their strategy was to then work with certain correctional service employees to smuggle tobacco and other commodities for certain inmates to buy their votes,” Dr Phamotse said.

Reliable information revealed that, gifts, among them food, were also given with some desperate political parties even promising better prospects of an early release from prison once they assumed power.

An estimated 2000 inmates are accommodated in the country’s correctional facilities.

“We have quite a bad situation right now and I am working hard on this situation as it is also a security threat. The officers involved in this misconduct should be held accountable. Our laws are very clear, they do not allow active political participation by both inmates and LCS staff because of the divisive nature of politics and propensity to sometimes promote violence. LCS employees are not allowed to actively participate in politics even beyond the workplace,” Dr Phamotse said.

Due to this political situation in the LCS, the minister said some inmates and officers had since expressed their loss of trust in the system.

Dr Phamotse further said she was working with the LCS management in a bid to manage the situation, which she noted was compromising team work among employees.

“Efforts are underway to implement depoliticization mechanisms, which basically call on all correctional service workers to go back to the drawing board and internalise professionalism for improved service- delivery.”

She said her ministry will develop a clear promotion and transfer policy that will help employees to understand set promotion procedures and guidelines.

“The absence of clarity on the issue of promotions is also contributing to the polarisation because some employees think they stand a better chance of being promoted when they are affiliated to certain political parties or when they know the minister, which is not the case because promotions are done on merit. We need to strengthen promotion and management systems in order to professionalise the LCS,” Dr Mahali said.

She said she expected all LCS employees to execute the duties they were trained to provide when they joined the institution.

“As a ministry, we will not hesitate to root-out all practices associated with the political activism in our prisons or any other acts of misconduct,” Dr Phamotse said, adding efforts to rebuild the spirit of workmanship and cooperation were a top priority to help restore some sanity in the correctional service facilities.

The minister also explained the need for the government to take decisive corrective measures that could help depoliticise the whole civil service and promote professionalism for improved service-delivery. This depoliticisation process, she emphasised, would help in strengthening the capacity and performance of all government institutions.


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