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Minister Senauoane, LEPOSA in war of words

Pascalinah Kabi

A WAR of words has erupted between Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA).

This after the minister accused the police union of sidelining her by directly appealing to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to fire Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

The militant union has however, hit back at Minister Senauoane, accusing her of lying about the issue. LEPOSA spokesperson Police Constable (PC) Motlatsi Mofokeng said they wrote to Ms Senauoane three days after her May 2020 appointment by Dr Majoro requesting her to intervene and address the tensions within the police force. PC Mofokeng alleged that the minister did not even bother to reply them hence their decision to escalate the matter to the premier.

For more than a year now, tensions have been simmering between Commissioner Molibeli and his subordinates.

LEPOSA accuses Commissioner Molibeli of bias and incompetence in handling police grievances. It alleges that since taking charge in August 2017, Commissioner Molibeli has unprocedurally promoted his close allies like Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete and Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa.

Earlier this year, LEPOSA unsuccessfully sought to have Commissioner Molibeli fired by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for alleged misconduct and incompetence.

Following the 20 May 2020 advent of Dr Majoro, the police union renewed its bid to oust Commissioner Molibeli on the same grounds.

LEPOSA even threatened an unprecedented protest march to Dr Majoro’s offices in Maseru to pressure him into dismissing the police boss. The march had initially been scheduled for 3 September 2020. It has since been moved to 10 September to allow an inter-ministerial committee set up by Dr Majoro to probe the police instability to present its findings and recommendations to the premier.

Ms Senauoane is part of the committee alongside fellow ministers, Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security), Kemiso Mosenene (Prime Minister’s Office) and Professor Nqosa Mahao (Law and Justice) who is its chairperson.

But Ms Senauoane is livid with LEPOSA for allegedly going over her head and appealing directly to Dr Majoro to act against Commissioner Molibeli.

The police union also ignored her and appealed to Prof Mahao to stop Commissioner Molibeli from firing any of its members until after the inter-ministerial committee has presented its findings and recommendations to the premier.

This after the police boss fired LEPOSA national treasurer, Lance Sergeant ‘Mathebe Motseki on 10 August 2020 and began processes to LEPOSA’s secretary general Inspector Moraleli Motloli and spokesperson Motlatsi Mofokeng.

“The inter-ministerial committee to investigate potential instability in the security agencies has concluded its assignment and is now writing its report for submission to the prime minister,” Ms Senauoane told the Sunday Express this week.

“But I keep telling everyone that LEPOSA’s behaviour is shocking. We had a meet and greet session with LEPOSA when I first got into office and that was the last time we met.

“We had agreed that we would schedule a meeting for detailed discussions. But while I was still waiting for that to happen, they sidelined me and went straight to the prime minister.

“I keep telling everyone that the LEPOSA issue is shocking. I liken it to a woman married into a family. The woman is trusted to assist the children in that family but only for those children to rush to the chief and elsewhere for donations and other assistance without involving that woman.

“They (LEPOSA) never engaged me on their grievances. They went straight to the prime minister without giving me the opportunity to deal with their issues. They undermined me.

“I guess they dislike me or maybe there is something which I did not immediately do which they had expected me to do. Therefore, I have no business with LEPOSA. I know nothing about LEPOSA except that I am constantly hearing of their issues on different media platforms. Therefore, I having nothing to say about LEPOSA,” Ms Senauoane said.

However, LEPOSA spokesperson PC Mofokeng hit back at Ms Senauoane, accusing her of lying.

“She (Senauoane) is not telling the truth, she has chosen to misguide herself. We wrote to her three days after her appointment and she did not even bother to reply. We wrote to her again, reminding her of our request for an urgent meeting and again she did not reply.

“We had a courtesy meeting with her and in that meeting, the LEPOSA secretary general (Motloli) requested a meeting with her on the urgent issues needing her attention. Again, she disregarded our request,” PC Mofokeng said.

He said even when they petitioned Dr Majoro, they copied her despite her constant refusal to meet them and discuss their grievances.

“We not only wrote to her several times, we also telephoned her to follow up on our letters. The (LEPOSA) secretary general even visited her office several times to inquire about the proposed meetings. The minister just did not want to meet with us to discuss our issues. She forced our hand (to appeal directly to the premier),” PC Motlatsi said.

He produced several letters as proof of their correspondence with Ms Senauoane. In one of the letters, former police principal secretary (PS) Matela Thabane acknowledges receipt of LEPOSA’s letter requesting a meeting with Ms Senauoane.

“On behalf of the police authority, the office of the principal secretary confirms that the meeting will be held on 8 July 2020 in the ministry’s boardroom. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a limited number of (LEPOSA) executive committee members are expected to attend in order to adhere to the prevention protocols in place,” Mr Thabane states in his letter to LEPOSA.

In another letter dated 13 July 2020, Mr Thabane said “following the postponement of the meeting scheduled for 8 July 2020, the confirmed date for the meeting is now 15 July 2020 in the ministry’s boardroom”. That meeting was never held.

In another letter, Mr Thabane says, “kindly note that prior to receiving your letter, the police authority had already made commitments this week which cannot be postponed. The police authority will schedule a meeting under the auspices of the police negotiating council. The date and time for the requested meeting will be communicated to you as soon as possible”.

Again on 15 July, LEPOSA’s secretary general Motloli wrote to Ms Senauoane.

“We want to bring yet to the attention of your (Senauoane’s) good office that LEPOSA wrote to the prime minister on the 22 April 2020, a letter titled ‘Letter of Concern and your cordial intervention’.

“…LEPOSA directed a follow up on the said letter on 22 July 2020. The said letter is available at your disposal,” Insp Motloli states.

Again, on 11 August 2020, LEPOSA wrote to Ms Senauoane, saying, “we request the audience of your good office at your earliest convenience”.

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