SEVERAL police officers face dismissal for going on strike a few days before His Majesty King Letsie III’s birthday in July this year.
The officers, stationed at Berea, Mohale’s Hoek, Thaba-Tseka, Maseru Rural districts, stand accused of defying orders to return to work and to attend rehearsals for His Majesty’s birthday celebrations. The King celebrated his 56th birthday on 17 July 2019. The officers have been given until Friday to “show cause” why they should not be dismissed from the police service.
Police officers went on a countrywide strike to press the government to address their grievances.
Some of the police officers took to the streets and left their posts abandoned as they sought to pile pressure on the government to act. The strike even affected preparations for His Majesty’s birthday celebrations after some restive police officers in Mokhotlong abandoned the rehearsals and threatened not to take part in the celebrations held in Upper Moyeni, Quthing.
The police grievances included demands for six percent salary increments, risk allowances and police uniforms.
The police officers coalesced under the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA.
The issue of the salary increments dates back to 2015, when the then government awarded a maximum six percent salary increment to the police service and this was given on a differentiated percentage grade which left out most of the junior officers.
Some ranks were awarded two percent while those in the ranks of Superintendent and Senior Superintendent were not given an increment.
The Commissioner of Police was allegedly awarded a 5, 5 percent increment, a move that was described as “unlawful, arbitrary and discriminatory” by the police union.
Two months after the July 2019 strike, several police officers in Berea, Mohale’s Hoek, Thaba-Tseka and Maseru Rural are facing dismissal. They are accused of refusing to attend the king’s birthday parade rehearsals from 10 to 12 July 2019.
They are also accused of trying to force the government to give into their demands despite receiving part payment of their salary arrears in March 2019.
Part of the “show cause” letters written to them on 1 September 2019 by the police’s Human Resources Officer, Senior Superintendent Lefu Ralethoko, state that they failed to comply with orders to return to work.
“The Commissioner of Police has instructed me to write you this letter, as I hereby do, to solicit from you, reasons if any why provisions of Section 31(1) (i) of the Police Act of 1998 may not be invoked against you.
“Under the powers of the Commissioner of Police (in the police act) to remove police officers, he may ‘dismiss an officer who subverts good order, discipline or lawful authority and tends to bring the police service into disrepute’.
“You will recall that acting in concert with your colleagues, you refused to attend the king’s birthday parade practice from 10 to 12 July 2019, on the auspices that you want your six percent arrears to be paid by the government of Lesotho. This was despite the fact that you had been instructed by Dispol (District police officer commanding) Berea that you proceed with your daily duties which included attendance of the said parade practice.
“You will also not deny that the Dispol Berea had explained in no uncertain terms that preparations for payment of the said arrears were at their final stage. With all the said information and instructions issued to you, you failed to comply.
“You will also agree you were attempting to force the government to yield to your demands for the said six percent salary arrears notwithstanding the fact that part-payments of the salary arrears were made sometime in March 2019…and the remaining balance of the arrears was to be paid before the end of July 2019.
“You will not deny that you did all these acts with full knowledge that it is not only a serious disciplinary offence for police officers to withhold their service but it is also a crime,” Snr Supt Ralethoko states in the “show cause” letters.
The officers have until Friday to respond or “it shall be presumed that you have waived your right of making required representation”.
Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed that some police officers had been served with “show cause” letters in connection with the July 2019 strike.
“I don’t know the exact number of police officers involved but this applies to all those who abandoned their duties while awaiting their increments. They have all been served with letters to “show cause” why they may not be dismissed,” Supt Mopeli recently told the Sunday Express.