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Police Complaints Authority to be disbanded

…Police minister brands the PCA a toothless body which is draining the fiscus

Pascalinah Kabi

POLICE and Public Safety Minister, ‘Mampho Mokhele, says the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) should be disbanded and its budget redirected to further capacitate the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

Ms Mokhele recently said this in the senate in response to the Ward Chief of Likoeneng, ‘Makholu Moshoeshoe. Chief Moshoeshoe had asked the minister to respond to allegations that the PCA had been disbanded.

The PCA was established by the Police Service Act of 1998 which was operationalised in 2003. The PCA is mandated to investigative complaints against members of the LMPS and it does so after a referral by the Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of Police.

Ms Mokhele said although the PCA had not been disbanded, it was high time this was done because the government was not getting value for money by investing in a toothless body.

“The PCA has not been disbanded, it is still operational,” Ms Mokhele said.

“It is the only board of PCA that has been disbanded but I must tell this honourable house that the PCA is one of the departments in the police ministry which is consuming a lot of money yet the government is not getting value for money.

“The government is investing a lot of money in the PCA.  A lot of the money budgeted for the ministry goes to the PCA yet they are unable to perform because of the laws establishing it (which state that it can only investigate cases referred to it by the Minister of Police and the Commissioner of Police). Unlike in other countries where PCAs investigate and prosecute cases involving the police, in Lesotho the police have to prosecute cases (involving police) investigated by the PCA.

“We are losing a lot of money by keeping the PCA operational and I am going to disband it soon enough. It will only be resuscitated after the entire process (of enacting laws to enable it to initiate investigations and prosecutions without waiting for referrals) has been completed. We need a PCA that will produce results, not the current one whose end products are dependent on the referrals by the minister and police commissioner,” Ms Mokhele said.

This is not the first time that the PCA’s ability to see through cases has been put under the spotlight as PCA Chairperson, Mahlape Morai, previously told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication that “the law has tied our hands so tight that we are not free to conduct investigations even when there is an urgent need”.

“I can confidently say that we are doing what the law says we must do because we hold public gatherings, participate in radio programmes and investigate cases where there are referrals. However, the law has tied our hands so tight we are not free to carry-out investigations even when there is an urgent need.

“A classic example is a case in Pitseng, Leribe where the police allegedly arrested and killed a civilian in 2016. We were unable to do anything at the moment as the law restricts us. There is also the Vuka Mosotho, Leribe case in 2016 where people fled their homes and slept in the mountains because of a police operation.

“In my view, the operation was not done well because the police officers forcefully entered every single household beating parents and children even though they were not looking for any particular person,” Ms Morai said.

She added: “Under normal circumstances, during an operation like that, the police should approach the village chief and give them a list of wanted people and the reasons thereof. The chief then helps the police locate the wanted people for questioning or arrest. However, beating and intimidating people is bad conduct.”

She said the PCA subsequently went to Vuka Mosotho to hold an awareness campaign and took statements from the residents. She said the residents brought booklets from their clinic stating they had indeed been assaulted by the police during the operation.

“I remember one man whose jaw was shattered. We then sought the (police) minister’s referral, but we didn’t get it immediately,” Ms Morai said, adding that their counterparts in countries like Zambia and South Africa were well ahead of Lesotho regarding the operations of the PCA.

More recently, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has expressed concern over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho. Without mentioning the PCA by name, the ACHPR also called on the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations by the police.

The ACHPR made these and other observations in a report that was prepared in the aftermath of the ACHPR’s human rights promotion visit to Lesotho from the 8th to the 12th of last month.

The delegation was headed by Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen, the ACHPR’s Commissioner in charge of the promotion and protection of human rights in Lesotho.

Among others, the ACHPR delegation met with the Ministry of Police and the Commissioner for Refugees.

In its preliminary report seen by the Sunday Express, the ACHPR said it was “concerned by the persistent allegations of police brutality and reports which purport to demonstrate that torture is being utilised by security forces in the country”.

“The government should take immediate steps to…establish or strengthen all human rights related bodies or institutions to handle allegations of human rights violations (by the police),” the ACHPR further said.

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