VERY rarely, across the world, does one hear an apology from a law enforcement agency like the police for infractions in the discharge of their duties. Oftentimes, we hear justifications and obfuscation by the disciplined forces for the sometimes heavy-handed way they treat members of the public.
That is why it is refreshing to hear Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s unequivocal apology elsewhere in this edition for human rights abuses that had been perpetrated by some Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) members, saying no one, including the police, had the right to take the law into their own hands.
“I take this opportunity to sincerely humble myself before the Basotho nation for the incidents of police brutality that have occurred,” he said.
“Basotho established the police service and not the other way round. Therefore, we would like to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the institution as this is not the kind of service that we should be rendering to the public.”
“Everyone has a right to life and even when there are suspicions that someone was involved in criminal activities, we have no right to take the law unto our own hands, nor does the public have a right to take the law into its own hands through mob justice,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said, adding that the LMPS now had an open-door policy for the public.
Since his appointment, Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli has hit the ground running to address problems that had been left to fester in the LMPS.
His most notable intervention so far has been the establishment of a team to probe Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng’s disappearance. The team’s efforts seem to have already yielded results with the discovery of a body which PC Khetheng’s believe is their long lost kin.
Such a prompt response from a law enforcement agency is what the doctor ordered for most Basotho as vividly explained by PC Khetheng’s father also in this edition.
The point is that the LMPS is there to serve the public and not the other way round as succinctly stated by Acting Commissioner Molibeli. The public should always see the police as their protectors and not their tormentors, and Acting Commissioner Molibeli is certainly going in the right direction if he puts his words into tangible actions.
In addition to cases of heavy-handedness, there are also cases of corruption.
Some motorists, especially public transport drivers, are now used to paying bribes if apprehended for committing an offence and to setting themselves free through kickbacks whenever they are subjected to unfair detention.
Like a cancer, police brutality and corruption can destroy public institutions and the entire justice system if they go unchecked and unpunished.
That is why Acting Commissioner Molibeli’s stance is commendable. We all know that not all police officers are corrupt with the bulk of them being principled and upstanding public servants.
However, bad apples are an eventuality in any organisation, and an honest appraisal of the LMPS by its boss is commendable.