NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) students have lodged an appeal to Police Minister Monyane Moleleki to sanction a demonstration to protest Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla’s alleged corruption among other grievances.
This was after Maseru Urban District Police Commissioner, Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola, refused to grant the students a permit for the march, citing “reasonable suspicion and compelling circumstances” the procession would not be peaceful.
In a letter dated 19 September 2016 Snr Supt Mapola states in part that: “Having applied my mind carefully to your representation, I hereby inform you that you cannot be granted permit for the purported demonstration based on the reasons presented to you in a letter of hearing we had earlier served on you. You are advised to consider your application for the purported demonstration any day after the 50th Independence celebration.”
The students, through their Student Representative Council (SRC), initially wanted to hold the demonstration on Tuesday this week. However, in the appeal letter received by Mr Moleleki’s office on Friday, they rescheduled to 6 October 2016 saying they would not be available on 27 September on account of the NUL graduation ceremony.
NUL SRC Secretary Thato Ponya, told the Sunday Express last week the march was meant to protest the alleged abuse of state coffers by Dr Khaketla by awarding a tender to South African firm Bidvest Fleet Company for the provision of vehicles and related services to the government “through corrupt means”.
Mr Ponya said the deal was prejudicing Basotho taxpayers and tertiary students since they were struggling to receive government sponsorship to pursue their studies.
In their appeal to Mr Moleleki through their lawyer, Advocate Tembo Lesupi of the K. Ndebele Chambers, the students argue Snr Supt Mapola’s grounds of refusal are “unreasonable”.
The Sunday Express is in possession of a copy of the letter bearing the Ministry of Police and Public Safety date-stamp of receipt of 23 September 2016.
In the missive Titled “Appeal Against the Decision to Grant Permit to NUL SRC to Hold a Procession Protest” and also dated 23 September 2016, Advocate Lesupi notes: “Clients have instructed us to lodge an appeal before you in terms of section 6(1) of the Public Meetings and Processions Act of 2010 as we hereby do.”
He narrates the reasons for the appeal: “On or about 13 September 2016 clients made an application to hold a demonstration. The request was initially to hold the demonstration on 27 September 2016.
“On or about 15 September 2016, a response was issued by the district commissioner in which response the district commissioner indicated he had reservations about granting the permits and calling upon clients to show cause why the permit should be granted.
“On or about 16 September 2016, clients through our offices responded to the show cause letter indicating reasons why a permit should be granted for the demonstration to be held.”
Advocate Lesupi says on 20 September 2016, Snr Supt Mapola then wrote to the students indicating he had considered their case and decided against granting the permit as requested.
“We are of the view that the district commissioner acted unreasonably in refusing to grant the permit and thus his decision must be set aside,” the lawyer argues.
“One of the grounds that led to the refusal to grant the permit is that the crowd expected would be uncontrollable; there is absolutely no basis for this. The purpose of informing the police in time is to ensure the police prepare themselves to ensure the protest is peaceful.
“Further, it is unreasonable to refuse to grant a permit to demonstrate simply because there is a possibility that the crowd will be huge. The right to protest cannot be limited by the fact that a huge crowd is expected.” Advocate Lesupi also disputes Snr Supt Mapola’s assertion the march was meant to violate provisions of the Public Meetings and Processions Act of 2010.
“There is absolutely no justification or basis for this averment and it is unreasonable. Therefore to refuse to grant a permit to demonstrate on such grounds,” he says.
“It is the submission of our clients that the above stated grounds are enough to have the decision of the district commissioner set aside. We therefore pray that the NUL SRC be granted the said permit on the following conditions: That the demonstration be held on 6 October 2016; that the demonstration be led by the NUL SRC but it should be open to all people of goodwill who support the cause of the said students.”
Advocate Lesupi also requests the minister to allow the procession to start off at the Institute of Extra Mural Studies and end at Sefikeng sa Moshoeshoe.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe referred this reporter to Snr Supt Mapola saying: “For that, I think it’s only best that you call Mr Mapola himself because he is best positioned regarding the issues.”
However, efforts to secure Snr Supt Mapola’s comment were fruitless as his phone was unreachable until the time of going to print yesterday.
Dr Khaketla has in the past requested this reporter to stop contacting her over this matter.
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