Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Friday warned members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) against dabbling in party politics.
Dr Mosisili said any officer who wants to be in active politics should leave the LMPS first to avoid tarnishing the image of the service.
The prime minister, who was speaking during a pass-out ceremony for 246 recruits at Police Training College, said engaging in party politics affects the officers’ ability to perform their duties impartially and professionally.
“Public officers should only show their political affiliation in the ballot box when casting their votes. Beyond the ballot box, public officers do not have any right to participate in party politics.
“When the Commissioner of Police was addressing you and urging you not to participate in party politics, Members of Parliament were mumbling in disapproval. But those who want to join party politics should leave the police service,” said Dr Mosisili.
He also said his coalition government’s founding agreement includes a commitment to implement security sector reforms.
“We committed ourselves to reforms in the security sector in our founding coalition agreement and you are going to be part of police officers included in these reform processes,” said Dr Mosisili.
The premier also noted government’s commitment to ensure the safety of all members of the public regardless of their political affiliation.
“I urge the general public to desist from committing crime and to support the police in their investigations. I take this opportunity to make a commitment that we will do our best to ensure the safety of all Basotho and their property,” he said.
Dr Mosisili also emphasised the police should use horses to reach hard-to-access areas in their pursuit of criminals. The use of horses, he added, is a critical aspect of the LMPS.
“Our police service has always been referred to as a mounted police service. Even during colonial times, we had a police service called Basutoland Mounted Police and it is still fitting today for us to pursue the use of horses in our policing activities. We should see police officers patrolling our villages and even the city on horseback,” said Dr Mosisili.
The prime minister further urged the new constables to protect the image of the police through abiding by the LMPS Act.
For his part, Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa reiterated the prime minister’s call for the officers not to be involved in party politics.
“They have now taken an oath to serve the entire nation without any discrimination. These officers here have been taught the ideals of a professional police service and they understand this very well. We have taught them and made sure they are not aligned to any political party,” said Commissioner Letsoepa.
But the police boss said “some people” had not welcomed the LMPS’ depoliticisation programme and instead, received it with anger.
“We are working on ensuring a police officer does not participate in party politics and this does not sit well with some people who used to see the police service as their political parties’ support base. Some of these people were angry and shivering with fear because they felt that they owned the police. It’s a bad mistake; the police only take orders from the Police Commissioner.
“Today our officers understand they should not be involved in party politics as they are supposed to serve the general public equally without any biases,” he said.
Commissioner Letsoepa further appealed to officers he said were still engaged in party politics to stop it.
“Our appeal to those few police officers who are still engaged in party politics is they should stop immediately or else they will find themselves left behind. They should be careful of their deeds because we don’t want to return to those times when we were politicised.
“They risk being lost in party politics as we move on as an institution.
“We are determined to move towards a professional police service. A politicized police service will soon be a thing of the past here.
“We should serve our people, this nation, as though we are serving God,” he said.
Officers should also desist from engaging in criminal activities that tarnish the image of the police service, Commissioner Letsoepa added.
“We have a cancerous problem of bribery and this problem should come to an end. Police officers who are always demanding bribes is something we should bring to an end as it taints the image of the police service,” he said.
Meanwhile, Friday’s pass-out parade drew a huge crowd of people from all walks of life, among them ministers, MPs and the army command.