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PM condemns police brutality

…says Commissioner, Minister must to investigate deaths of suspects in custody

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Minister of Police, ’Mampho Mokhele and the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, must “do the right thing” by investigating the deaths of suspects in police custody, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has said.

Dr Thabane said this in a statement released to the media yesterday where he addressed police brutality which has seen several suspects die in their custody.

Dr Thabane’ statement comes in the wake of a pledge by the government in the national reforms declaration that it would investigate deaths of suspects at the hands of the police. In the declaration signed last week with the opposition, the government undertook to “investigate and report to the Coalition of Opposition Parties in due course” the circumstances of the deaths of a list of people who died in police custody.

Among the victims listed by the opposition in their presentation to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator, former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke is Thelingoane ’Mota of Koro-koro. Mr ‘Mota was chased by the police on their way from fetching the body of their colleague from a mortuary and was later found dead last year.

Kamohelo ’Matli of Butha-Buthe was called in for questioning by Butha-Buthe police last year over a fracas in connection with a flash drive with a taxi driver and he reportedly died in custody.

Mosiuoa Raleababa (71) of Maputsoe is alleged to have also died at the hands of police after he was taken in for questioning over a break at the shop where he worked as a watch man early this year.

Lesia Thekethe of Mechachane is said to have been shot by the police who had come to intervene between villagers and stock-theft suspects theft early this year.

Rets’epile Moeletsi (33) died in police custody three weeks ago after he was taken in by the Quthing police on suspicion that he was involved in the stabbing to death of an elderly couple in the Quthing district last month.

And yesterday Dr Thabane expressed the government’s commitment to investigating all the allegations made against the police.

“It is the commitment of this government to investigate all reports and allegations made regarding these sad happenings and to see to it that those implicated to take full responsibility for their actions,” Dr Thabane said.

“I am looking upon the Minister (of Police) and the Commissioner to do the right thing and ensure that expert investigations are done openly, thoroughly and expeditiously to allow justice to take its course.”

Dr Thabane said it was too early for the country to witness more gruesome deaths as Lesotho is still smarting from a phase where it was normal for some security officers to wantonly kill citizens in the past regime.

“I come before you with a heavy heart when our people are going through a phase of darkness of unexplainable deaths at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and up hold the law,” Dr Thabane said.

“This is happening at quite an early stage in our journey after we have shortly left Pharaoh’s household (the previous regime) and leave behind the culture of persecuting one another, where some of our security agencies had turned themselves into wolves that fed themselves on this country’s tax payers, turning against their mandate and allegiance of being a “helper and a friend,” against the weak.”

Dr Thabane said the cries of the people and of women whose children and husbands were killed in unclear and unacceptable circumstances had not fallen on deaf ears.

“Recently, I declared a curfew against criminal activities by some gun men who are busy depriving people of their innocent lives across the country and I tell you that we are going no-where if the same acts are now being perpetrated by some police officers who are in fact sheep in wolves’ hides while they are in His Majesty’s uniform.”

He said the government has embarked onto an exercise to redeem the true identity of the police service by up-rooting bogus officers.

“As we embark on rooting out those police officers who caused these deaths, I would like to assure the whole nation, residents and everyone who happens to visit our country that this is not the true identity of our police.

“I am therefore appealing to all police officers who are still faithful to their allegiance, the police authorities, the police staff association, churches and non-governmental organisations to help the government and the police redeem its position in the nation and to help us retain and save the little good that’s left of humanity, humility, service delivery, commitment and sacrifice within the institution,” Dr Thabane said.

Lesotho has in recent months witnessed several deaths of suspects at the hands of the police while some have been tortured to extract confessions.

Earlier this year, Ms Mokhele, revealed that the police indeed use violent means to extract confessions from suspects, a practice that has been roundly criticised.

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