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Police on knife edge as Molibeli, LEPOSA fight escalates

  • union threatens unprecedented demo to bring down the police boss

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

IN a clear sign of the escalating tensions in the police force and the resultant threat to national stability, the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has given notice to stage a massive protest march to petition Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to dismiss Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli for his “cantankerous” and “illegal” dismissal of one of its senior members.

Such a march is unprecedented in the history of Lesotho. Police officers hardly ever stage demonstrations demanding the ouster of their bosses elsewhere in the world.

Commissioner Molibeli has been given up to 21 August 2020 to rescind his Monday dismissal of LEPOSA national treasurer, Lance Sergeant ‘Mathebe Motseki, or face the ignominy of being the first commissioner to be demonstrated against by his subordinates.

Lance Sergeant Motseki is the first unionist to be dismissed by Commissioner Molibeli who intends to fire more senior LEPOSA members from the police force.

LEPOSA secretary general Inspector Moraleli Motloli and the police union’s spokesperson Police Constable (PC) Motlatsi Mofokeng are also on Commissioner Molibeli’s firing line as he seeks to rid the police force of subordinates he accuses of “engaging in an open rebellion against the police management”.

Commissioner Molibeli was only prevented by a 6 August 2020 interim order by Justice Molefi Makara from transferring PC Mofokeng from Maseru to Berea district.

On 30 July 2020, Commissioner Molibeli asked Inspector Motloli to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed from the police force for petitioning Prime Minister Majoro to fire him (Molibeli).

Last month, Inspector Motloli petitioned Dr Majoro to suspend Commissioner Molibeli to facilitate investigations into the latter’s alleged criminal misconduct, maladministration and abuse of power.

Commissioner Molibeli hit back by initiating moves to fire Inspector Motloli, Lance Sergeant Motseki and other LEPOSA members who he brands as “rogue” police officers out to derail the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) from doing its work.

Prior to writing to Inspector Motloli, Commissioner Molibeli had on 27 July 2020 slapped Lance Sergeant Motseki with a letter demanding she “show cause” why she should not be dismissed for her recent statements which the police boss said had tarnished the image of the police command.

Speaking at the funeral of one Lance Corporal Thabang Molelekoa in Mafeteng last month, Lance Sergeant Motseki accused the police authorities of transferring some police officers as punishment for opening a case against former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane for allegedly assaulting a Maseru man in January 2019.

Lance Sergeant Motseki also accused the police command of failing to arrest DCP Mokete after a female junior police officer accused him of sexual assault in April 2020. The case is now before the courts.

Worried by the infighting within the police force and the threats they pose to national stability, Dr Majoro last week appointed an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the “potential instability” in the security agencies.

The committee comprises of ministers ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety), Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security), Kemiso Mosenene (Prime Minister’s Office) and Professor Nqosa Mahao (Law and Justice), who is its chairperson.

It began its work on Monday by summoning Commissioner Molibeli to give evidence.

At the conclusion of its work, the committee is expected to present its findings to the premier with recommendations on how best to deal with the instability in the police force.

But it appears Commissioner Molibeli has no intention of waiting until after the committee has presented its findings as evidenced by his drastic decision to sack Lance Sergeant Motseki on the very day the commissioner appeared before the ministers.

He asked this publication for meeting tomorrow to discuss his issues with LEPOSA when he was called for comment yesterday.

Lance Sergeant Motseki confirmed her dismissal to the Sunday Express but referred all questions on the issue to LEPOSA spokesperson PC Mofokeng.

PC Mofokeng confirmed the dismissal and said they had already “started legal processes to contest the dismissal because we believe that it is unlawful”.

“We will file a court case against the commissioner,” PC Mofokeng said.

“We have reason to believe that he (Molibeli) wants to dismiss more LEPOSA members because our secretary general (Inspector) Moraleli Motloli was slapped with a “show cause” letter just like he did with Mme Motseki before firing her.

“She (Motseki) responded to the commissioner’s “show cause” letter but it appears he (Molibeli) felt her response was not sound enough to dissuade him from effecting the dismissal.

“Likewise, he (Motloli) has responded to his ‘show cause’ letter but who knows how the commissioner will respond? So, we have started legal processes against Mme Motseki’s dismissal and other looming dismissals,” added PC Mofokeng.

In addition to the court action, LEPOSA has written to Commissioner Molibeli giving him seven days to rescind the dismissal of Lance Sergeant ‘Motseki, failing which the militant union will stage a protest march to petition Dr Majoro to fire the police boss.

“We are puzzled at the cavalier manner in which you continue to hold and administer the high office of the Commissioner of Police on which you are bestowed with both command and control,” Inspector Motloli states in her hard-hitting 14 August 2020 letter to Commissioner Molibeli.

“It remains cantankerous to note that at your position you …stand to be taught and corrected that the High Court never made a decision or affirmed your illegal intention to dismiss Lance Sergeant Motseki without following the due process of the law.

“You claim, surprisingly so, that you have embarked on the decision to dismiss Lance Sergeant Motseki on the basis of Section 31 (1) (of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Act). We refute in the strongest possible terms that the Minister of Police (‘Mamoipone Senauoane) has agreed or concurred with your arbitrary decision.”

Inspector Motloli goes on to demand that Commissioner Molibeli immediately reinstates Lance Sergeant Motseki pending the finalisation of their court case against his dismissal.

He also demands that Commissioner Molibeli furnishes LEPOSA with a letter from Minister Senauoane “agreeing to the unlawful dismissal of Lance Sergeant Motseki”.

“Be advised that your failure to do so in seven days, we will not hesitate(sic) to hold a procession and petition the prime minister and the government to oust you for your incompetency and bringing the police into disrepute,” Inspector Motloli states.

Minister Senauoane was not reachable on her mobile phone for comment on the issue. LEPOSA insists that under the law the minister is supposed to consent to the dismissal of any police officer by the commissioner.

Inspector Motloli yesterday said that LEPOSA’s 4300 members were all welcome to join the protest march to petition Dr Majoro if Commissioner Molibeli fails to comply with their demands to reinstate Lance Sergeant Motseki.

“A dismissal is a very serious decision to make without hearing the accused’s side of the story. Procedurally she (Lance Sergeant Motseki) should have been given a hearing.

“We don’t have a problem with Commissioner Molibeli practicing his right to dismiss officers. The problem is when he makes that decision without following the rules of natural justice and the right principles of dismissing a person.

“We will stage a march to petition the PM on the matter. All those police officers who are able to are invited to join in. If all 4300 officers are able to come, then so be it,” Inspector Motloli said.

He laughed off assertions that LEPOSA was being overly aggressive and militant towards the police command, saying unions are by their nature militant.

“We were just as militant alongside him (Commissioner Molibeli) when he was a member of the union.

“There are issues of his illegal conduct that have caused tensions in the police service. A crime is a crime regardless of who has committed it. Under his watch, we have a situation in the police force where some officers are favoured over others.

“The favourites can kill people without any fear of legal action being taken against them. Those who are not favourites are fired the next day upon committing crimes and that is where our issue with him (Commissioner Molibeli) is.

“He is already involved in the whole conundrum and it is important that he is interdicted pending investigations into his conduct,” Inspector Motloli said.

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