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Police Minister to appear in court tomorrow

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

POLICE and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse will appear in court tomorrow on charges of contravening the lockdown regulations imposed by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID — 19) pandemic.

Mr Moramotse is accused of contravening the regulations by purchasing alcohol at a local liquor shop in Maseru. If convicted, Mr Moramotse could be fined M5000 or jailed for two months or both.

Mr Moramotse was recently caught on camera buying liquor from a shop owner of Chinese origin in contravention of regulations forbidding the sale and purchase of alcohol. For the duration of the lockdown which began on 30 March and ends on 21 April 2020, all liquor outlets are supposed to be closed but this particular liquor shop was allegedly opened to enable the minister to purchase alcohol.

Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli on Friday said Mr Moramotse is expected to first report to the police for “pre-court formalities” before proceeding to the magistrates’ court.

“He (Mr Moramotse) was supposed to have reported to the police earlier this week but his lawyer excused him saying he was occupied and pleaded to bring him in on Monday (tomorrow). He is expected to stop by the police charge office first for the first reading of his charge,” Supt Mopeli said.

It remains to be seen if the minister will report to the police and actually appear in court tomorrow.

This after Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli on Friday stated in his High Court papers that Mr Moramotse had approached Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to shield him from prosecution.

Commissioner Molibeli said this in his founding affidavit in a case where he wants the court to interdict Dr Thabane from suspending him from his post on the grounds that he committed perjury in a case involving the transfer of a police officer from Maseru to Qacha’s Nek.

The police chief argues that the real motive behind Dr Thabane’s bid to suspend him is to protect Mr Moramotse from being charged with contravening lockdown regulations by allegedly buying alcohol beverages in Maseru. (See story on page 5).

There has been widespread condemnation of Mr Moramotse for his alleged violation of the liquor ban.

In a statement this week, the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) called on Dr Thabane to fire Mr Moramotse and “deal decisively” with the businessman who sold him alcohol in contravention of the lockdown regulations.

“The Democratic Congress calls upon Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to relieve the Minister of Police Lehlohonolo Moramotse of his official duties and responsibilities immediately following his breach of lockdown regulations by buying beer at the time the (lockdown) regulations don’t allow such purchases.

“DC also calls on the police to deal decisively with the minister and the Chinese man who opened the store on that day for solely serving the minister. These two culprits should face the full might of the law,” the DC it statement.

Movement for Economic Change (MEC) Spokesperson Napo Moshoeshoe condemned Mr Moramotse’s actions, saying this painted a picture of a government which had no respect for its own legal frameworks.

“We are in a very precarious period where government should not be sending negative signals that they are not genuine and honest about the lockdown regulations.

“It does not help that a cabinet minister acts against the regulations and sneaks out to buy alcohol. The prime minister went to the extent of proroguing parliament to stress the seriousness of the situation.  For one of his ministers to be seen buying beer, this seriously undermines the lockdown regulations,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.

The Academic Forum for Development of Lesotho (AFDeL) — a registered association of academics and professionals in various economic and development fields in Lesotho, also condemned Mr Moramotse’s behaviour.

“The AFDeL urges the relevant authorities to take swift action against the Police Minister to protect Lesotho’s dignity and to ensure we are not a nation where the rule of law is a mere statement that can be flouted at will. We keenly await decisive action on the matter,” AFDeL said in a statement.

On Friday, the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) said they were also surprised to learn that instead of encouraging the public to adhere to the lockdown regulations, “some prominent people in the government were the ones now suspected of breaching such regulations”.

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