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Police chief retires

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Lesotho Mounted Police Service commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane is retiring after 34 years of service, the Sunday Express can reveal.

Letooane, who is on leave until May 19 next year, confirmed she will officially retire from the service next year.

She however refused to speak to the Sunday Express further about her retirement complaining about what she said was bad publicity by the paper in the past.

Deputy Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza is acting as police boss.

Letooane, who holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the National University of Lesotho and an LLB from the University of Natal, joined the police in 1977.

She was appointed police commissioner in January 2005.

Letooane is credited with introducing partnerships with local communities in an attempt to curb fierce armed fights between stock farmers and cattle raiders.

Stock theft has a long history in Lesotho but when Letooane was appointed police commissioner the problem had reached alarming proportions with villagers attacking each other and houses being set ablaze.

A year before she was appointed police chief Cabinet had set up a security committee sanctioning joint police and army patrols in areas that had been badly affected by violence.

One of the hot-spots was Koro-Koro in rural Maseru district where gun totting thugs invaded funeral processions and killed mourners.

With Letooane’s introduction of policing in partnership with communities these attacks subsided for a while.

Letooane retires at a time when the police face the colossal challenge of ending gangster wars between groups of famo musicians especially in Mafeteng district.

Letooane is also credited with the establishment and decentralisation of the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) within the police.

The unit aims to help the police understand the needs of children, especially those who have broken the law and those who are victims of crime, as well as to educate the community on family safety.

However, Letooane’s tenure as police commissioner has not been smooth sailing.

Last year she was convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to a year in jail.

The magistrate’s courts had ordered that Letooane gives evidence in a case in which a man was accused of stealing a car.

During the cross examination the suspect had alleged that the car he was being charged of stealing had been released to its owner by the police.

He said Letooane had illegally ordered that the car which was held by the police as exhibit be released to the owner.

The magistrate ordered that Letooane should appear in court to explain why she had given the order.

After she repeatedly failed to appear in court as ordered Letooane was convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to one year in prison.

She only managed to escape jail after the Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla overturned the conviction.

She also lost another case in which a local company, Smally Trading Enterprise, had sued her for denying it a tender to supply police uniform in favour of a United States of America company which had been disqualified because it did not meet all tender requirements.

Letooane together with former home affairs principal secretary, Lefa Mokotjo, were alleged to have tampered with the tender process in favour of Ferrini USA Inc.

Apparently Ferrini USA Inc’s tender had been initially disqualified because the company did not have tax clearance certificates from the Lesotho Revenue Authority. 

The company also did not have a trader’s licence.

It had also not submitted samples of the uniform it wanted to supply, as required by the tender.  

But despite these anomalies Letooane still gave the tender to Ferrini USA Inc sparking a legal row from local companies that had lost the tender.

Under Letooane’s administration the police was also accused of using torture and other brutal interrogation methods to extract confessions from suspects.

Some of the victims have since sued the police while others have won substantial amounts in damages.

Last month the Sunday Express revealed that more than 40 civil suit cases have been filed against the police between 2007 and 2009.

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